In my early years as a collector in the 1960s, I learned that decades before that time, the Mint often had supplies of proof coins of prior years that it continued to sell to collectors.
However, the Mint policy in place for most of my collecting career was that once the calendar year ended, so did sales of coins of that date.
In recent times the Mint has been softening that policy and edging back to practices of former times so that coin sales that aren’t specifically mandated by law to end on a specific date go on and on and then sometimes end abruptly.
How do you explain that to collectors?
Take the First Spouse gold coins. The Mint cannot strike more pieces of a specific year after the calendar year ends, but it can keep selling what it has left.
A current example of this is the Mary Todd Lincoln proof First Spouse coin of 2010. Some 6,903 have been sold, but that does not tell us whether the Mint has 20 left or 2,000. It could go off sale today without warning.
For past designs, that outcome has caught some collectors by surprise. I have had calls from some of them. To them it did not seem to matter that they had had many weeks to get their orders in. They wanted some sort of last call, but didn’t get it.
All I can say is the Mint does what it does. If a collector has an interest in something, he or she should act right away. This is especially true for issues that you think will sell out fast – a lesson we all saw reinforced by the 25th anniversary silver American Eagle set.