This article was originally printed in the latest issue of Numismatic News.
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How many new coin issues can there be before there are too many? And if there is such a thing as too many, does it matter?
Some people think that the planned 5-ounce silver America the Beautiful quarters that will be offered this year make a good example of too many issues.
I think that. I wrote a column criticizing the coins before Congress authorized them. Obviously, the column had no impact on this legislative outcome.
First Spouse coins are selling at a rate of 7,000 to 8,000 per design when you add together both the proofs and the uncirculated pieces. Are these examples of too many new issues?
I thought so. I wrote a column against them before they were authorized as companions to the Presidential dollars. This column had no impact on that outcome either. The series has started. It will be finished. The only question is numbers.
I am sure there are readers who feel that I should have opposed the copper-nickel America the Beautiful quarters and the golden base metal Presidential dollars as well. The quarter series will have 56 designs and the latter roughly 40, depending on the longevity of ex Presidents.
In terms of sheer numbers, they have a point. That’s a lot of designs. But numbers alone are insufficient criteria in my view.
I try to be guided in my evaluation by function, American tradition and hobby history.
If a coin is intended to be used in circulation, I pretty much come down in its favor. That’s what coins are for. They are intended to be used in commerce and reflect the times in which they are issued. Coins have a message. Honoring states and territories and national parks is a valid set of messages. If commerce doesn’t need the coins, mintages usually will be adjusted lower as we are seeing with the quarters. In other words, any problems will take care of themselves.
American tradition means that I favor commemoratives. But the history of the last three decades shows we can have too many. Battles were fought and we have the current congressional guidelines of two programs each year. That number seems reasonable.
The First Spouse coins broke tradition in my view by becoming the third weight of gold claiming to be a U.S. $10 since 1984. Had the First Spouse coins been a quarter ounce like the American Eagle and Buffalo series, I would have been more inclined to support them. Had the America the Beautiful designs been struck as 1-ounce silver dollars I might have supported them.
Hobby history is a little more subjective. I can point to times when we have what seem to be too many issues and collector frustration rises. Are many satisfied customers at the time of first sale the goal to be achieved, or do we want to see issued many types with tiny mintages that will appeal to some collectors on eBay weeks or even years after the time of issue? Trying to find a balance is the subjective part and brings me back to the questions of can there be too many new issues and does it matter?