Complaints from collectors who were unable to purchase any of the 100,000 25th anniversary American Eagle sets offered Oct. 27 have put the U.S. Mint on the defensive.
The rapid sellout of the 100,000 sets was characterized by backed up phone calls and lengthy website delays.
Priced at $299.95 each, buying the five-coin set is the only way collectors can acquire examples of the 2011-P reverse proof and the 2011-S uncirculated Eagle.
Tom Jurkowsky, the Mint’s director of public affairs, said that in the first five hours the sets were available, the Mint received over 27,000 orders. Order size averaged three sets, so roughly 81,000 sets were snapped up in that period.
A household order limit of five sets was in effect.
Buying multiple sets was a course of action urged in online postings where message board comments indicated that some firms were asking their clients to purchase the sets for immediate resale to them for $100 profit.
Once again, the Mint’s order management system is being blamed for the delays in taking customer orders. It is scheduled for an upgrade in 2012, but that cannot help collectors presently in distress.
Disappointed would-be buyer Gary L. Biggs wrote a letter Oct. 31 to Deputy Mint Director Richard Peterson. It said in part, “This rapid sellout and the immediate escalation of prices into the stratosphere appears to me unprecedented and suggests that this sort of flash sale has encouraged the participation of a significant number of speculators and scalpers who are now poised to visit price gouging of titanic proportions onto your loyal customer base.”
He suggested the Mint produce more sets.
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Arnold Rothenbuescher, who also failed in his attempt to buy the set, wrote Numismatic News, “The Mint should have expected high volume ordering due to the popularity of the American Eagle coin, particularly so because of the limited minting. It begs the question: why it would offer only 100,000 sets of such a coin. Even so, how could the Mint not be able or (be) prepared to handle the high volume of orders?”
Reader Bill Davenport, who successfully placed his order described his experience this way: “It is also a fact that the effort required more than 3-1/2 hours of phone calls and attempts to place the order via the Internet.
“I lost count after the first two hours, but what should have been a simple and efficient task actually required more than 120 phone calls and more than 300 attempts to access the Mint’s website.”
Another buyer who was disappointed, Michael P. Schmeyer wrote Numismatic News, “I started calling and it was busy, redial busy, so on and so forth for the next nine hours, same thing. As you can tell, I don’t have much to do and I really wanted a set.”
Fred Fuchs wrote, “I tried calling to order this set. I started two minutes before the announced 12 p.m. start and continued calling until 12 (o’clock) at night. I started again at 8 a.m. Friday and finally got through at 10 a.m. when I was told, ‘We apologize, but the set is sold out.’”
The Mint was expected to post an apology to its customers on its website as this issue of Numismatic News was going to press.
Delivery of the sets to successful buyers was to begin Nov. 10.