When the Mint says jump, we collectors jump.
As soon as the Mint announces some coin or set is available we try to get into the door simultaneously.
This is understandable when there is a high likelihood of a quick sellout. No one likes to be told that the last one is gone.
But this phenomenon occurs even when what is being offered has no chance whatsoever of selling out.
The latest case in point is the 2016 uncirculated coin set, popularly called the mint set.
It went on sale May 18.
Last year’s mint set is still being offered. At 305,482 vended, annual demand for the set is running at 10 percent to 15 percent of the level of the 1970s, depending on which year you want to compare the current number to.
Yet when the Mint figuratively rings the bell, we are like Pavlovian dogs. We do our tricks, meaning we try to get our orders placed as quickly as possible.
In less than a week by May 22, 127,489 2016 mint sets were ordered by collectors.
The Mint could reach a 305,000 set sales level if it sold just 5,875 each and every week. No fuss there, but we like the fuss. We like to be the first on our block to get a new set.
So the scramble to buy commences as soon as it is allowed.
Computers have made this early rush far easier. There is no aggravation of placing repeated phone calls to a jammed customer service department.
Too bad the Mint cannot reward collectors with patience with a somewhat lower price. It would be a sort of off-peak hours commercial model.
This will not work if you expect to buy something that you can immediately resell for a huge profit, but for ordinary offers of mint sets, proof sets, bags and rolls of dollars and quarters, and First Day Covers, a price declining the longer the item has been available would make sense.
A lower price would also reward collectors for their patience and not overwhelming the Mint website.
In the old days, a cheaper price might have been resented as somehow unfair to those who paid the full price. Would it still be considered to be unfair these days?
We have lived now for quite a few years with changes in the prices of precious metal coinage on as frequent as a weekly basis. The idea of issue price is almost a foreign concept for these, especially in years when the metals move sharply in one direction or the other.
Issue price for the 2016 mint set is $26.95.
How about 10 percent off for those who wait six months to buy, or until late November? That would put the price at $24.25 each, giving a break to numismatic gift givers during the holidays.
Buzz blogger Dave Harper has twice won the Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."
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