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Good start, bad start

Are you collecting the new clad San Francisco Mint circulation strike quarters that the Mint began selling in June?

So far four of the five 2012 America the Beautiful designs are available.

If you measure demand by the number of coins sold, it creates an impression that collectors are beating the doors down to obtain them.

The El Yunque National Forest design, which has been available the longest, has seen collectors buy 1,470,340 pieces. That’s a pretty healthy number.

Sales numbers decline from there, reflecting the shorter periods of time the other designs have been on sale.

The Chaco Culture National Historical Park design has been purchased to the tune of 1,088,040 pieces.

For the Acadia National Park design, the current sales number is 902,980.

The most recently available piece, the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park quarter, has a sales total of 777,480 coins.

If you look at sales in terms of numbers of bags and rolls that are sold, the figures shrink. The 1,470,340 El Yunque number turns into 8,695 100-coin bags and 15,021 rolls.

If every bag or roll represented one collector, that would mean 23,716 people have ordered them. That doesn’t even equal the number of members of the American Numismatic Association or the number of subscribers to Numismatic News.

So what is it? A strong sales start? Or something rather uninspiring?

I think it is a mixture of both.

I think these numbers are strong considering the fact that these new coins currently are flying under the radar. Many collectors still don’t know they exist.

Also, current collectors are not the same bunch that grew up as I did during the circulation finds era.

Back then we collectors assembled sets one coin at a time. We expected to do this. It was part of the fun.

Almost two generations now of sales of handy, dandy complete collections in one package-type of products have spoiled many of us.

If the “S” quarter is not in the annual uncirculated coin set, who wants to bother with buying a roll separately?

I expect marketers will soon step in and meet the needs of those who want complete sets by assembling all five “S” quarters in one package priced for less than the cost of a roll.

It could be the U.S. Mint that does this. It could be private firms. It might even be both.

What that means, I think, is we can expect more good things to come from this program.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."