How many coins are in a set?
Maybe just a little.
As this issue was deadlining the details of a new Mint offering came to my attention.
It is the 2012 Star-Spangled Banner Bicentennial Silver Dollar Set.
What makes this a set, apparently, is not two or more coins, because there is only one coin in it: a proof Star-Spangled Banner silver dollar. What makes it a set is the inclusion of a reproduction of an original manuscript of the poem by Francis Scott Key that became the words to our National Anthem. There is also artwork of the shelling of Fort McHenry by the British on the card.
In short, the coin becomes a set because of what it is packaged with.
Another aspect to this set that struck me as odd is the price. Initial issue price is $53.95. I double-checked the U.S. Mint’s website to see what the proof dollar costs by itself and found that it is priced at $54.95. The set, therefore, is cheaper than the coin sold by itself.
Further, there will be no more than 50,000 of these sets available to collectors. Already 86,973 of the individual proof coins have been sold.
Arrival of this new dollar set follows the earlier issue of the Defenders of Freedom Set that includes one proof Infantry Soldier silver dollar. At $51.95, it also is cheaper than the proof Infantry dollar sold individually, which is $54.95. What makes this a set is the proof dollar comes with a replica dog tag on a miniature chain in a card on which appears a quote from President John F. Kennedy.
This set, too, has a mintage limited to just 50,000, and it has had a hard time reaching that number. In recent weeks the sales numbers have been actually declining, presumably due to returns.
The price differential perhaps is an indication of the value of the standard velour box that houses the proof dollar sold individually. Then again, the pricing makes more sense when you consider the Mint’s policy of offering discounts during the early weeks of new commemorative coin offerings. The proof dollars were originally offered for $49.95. The set prices are higher than that and they seem to be appropriate when you remember this.
Is there any difference between the coins offered individually or in these sets?
There is not supposed to be any difference, but packaging differences can make a huge difference in value on the secondary market. Packaging tends to increase the value of a coin that the secondary market has already awarded a higher price to, or prevent it from being substantially discounted.
For coins with high mintages that depress secondary market prices down to bullion value, packaging seems to be just the troublesome stuff dealers have to throw away after they have dropped the coin into a silver refinery shipment
Why collectors value packaging highly in one instance but not the other probably is just as odd as a set having just one coin in it. That’s numismatics.