The U.S. Mint is apparently going to use the dribble method to release the gold centennial Mercury dime, Standing Liberty quarter and Walking Liberty half dollar designs.
The Mercury coin now appears on the product release schedule on the Mint website for April 21 without any mention of the other two designs other than the TBD letters indicating that release information for them is to be determined.
It can be argued that offering the gold Mercury coin and the others individually is wise.
It can be argued that this sales approach is foolish.
Wisdom hinges on what expectations might be for collectors being able to come up with the cash for buying all three gold coins.
Combined they contain 0.85 ounce of gold, for a bullion value of $1,082 at this morning’s gold value of $1,273.20 an ounce.
Add the Mint’s markup, and the combined issue prices should be in the neighborhood of $1,500.
That is chunk of change to come up with all at once.
But should the collector market be treated like standard retail customers?
When Walmart figures customer spending is under stress, it puts out smaller sizes of familiar products.
Offering individually the Mercury dime design, the smallest of the three coins at one-tenth ounce, looks like a reflection of this retailing philosophy.
At today’s gold value, issue price will be around $170.
That is a figure that is more affordable than $1,500.
So this is the wisdom side of the argument.
The foolish side of the argument is based on collector intentions.
If most collectors want to buy all three coins, the cheapest option, and believe me, collectors consider this, would be to buy all three coins at once as a set.
Perhaps the Mint will offer this option later.
But come the month of May and if as a collector you have already spent $170 for the Mercury design, you might balk at buying a three-coin set if it is then offered, especially if you do not want duplicates.
At the very least, there might be some anger at being forced to spend more money.
There is nothing wrong with the dribble sales method.
There is nothing inherently foolish about not offering a three-coin set.
However, what is foolish would be if there are indeed Mint plans for a three-coin set offer, but not announcing them before collectors have to buy their gold Mercury coins.
Gold centennial coins are greatly looked forward to by collectors.
Give them the full details of the program before the first product sales date arrives.
They will then be able to make their best decisions for buying all three coins based on the state of their own finances.
Buzz blogger Dave Harper has twice won the Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."
• Start becoming a coin collector today with this popular course, Coin Collecting 101