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Waiting ain’t easy

Collectors are still anxiously awaiting delivery of the West Point silver American Eagle sets that they placed orders for in May.

Early on, the Mint set a Sept. 30 target date for delivery of the sets, but that date is still a long way off and the desire to have possession of them is powerful.

I had an email yesterday from a buyer waiting for delivery. He had checked with the Mint telephone order takers to see what was up.

He was told the Mint was waiting for delivery of packages from a foreign supplier.

I asked the Mint about it and the Mint responded with a statement, the full text of which is below.

“The coins for the sets have been struck.  However, the packaging for this product is manufactured overseas and takes several weeks to be made and shipped to the United States.  As is our standard practice, the United States Mint ordered a certain quantity of packaging up front.  This initial order of packaging material represented more than 60 percent of the final net demand for this set.  We had to wait until the ordering window closed before we could further determine our needs and place the final packaging order.  The packaging is arriving in various quantities at various times.  Each time a shipment arrives, the United States Mint at West Point quickly packages the sets and sends them to our fulfillment center where they are then delivered to our customers.  Customers are not charged until their orders are shipped.

“Finally, we made every effort to ensure customers were fully aware of the potential delayed shipping dates at the time they placed their order.  This was accomplished by posting and updating the expected shipping dates on the website at the time of purchase.”

The upshot, of course, is the question of should the Mint strike an arbitrary number of coins, package them and be ready to ship them out as soon as orders arrive, or should the Mint take orders for a period of time as it did in this case and strike only the number of coins ordered?

I have come down repeatedly on the side of taking orders in advance because too many times collectors have turned up their noses at whatever fixed number is selected and didn’t order at all, leaving the Mint with large excess supplies for many programs. Regular merchants would have clearance sales to get rid of such an excess, but the Mint cannot.

The cure for the problem is to let collector response to a specific offer set the number minted. Doing this leaves open the possibility of buyers getting coins that win on the secondary market when the order period closes.

That, of course, is what contributes to the anxiety level about delivery.

If you had total control, which course would the Mint take for future offerings?

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is winner of the 2013 Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper “Numismatic News.”

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