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Mint conducts a ‘Liberty’ experiment

I often rank Mint offerings by dollar amount earned as a proxy for popularity.

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My supposition is that if collectors spend $20 million instead of $10 million, they are twice as happy.

It is in this vein that I have been playing around with numbers generated by three Mint offerings of pieces with Miss Liberty as an African-American.

One piece is a coin; the others are medals.

The Mint has sold 25,675 of the one-ounce gold $100 American Liberty coin. Current price is $1,690. To buy the number reported sold, collectors had to part with approximately $43.4 million of their hard-earned dollars.

The same design appears on a one-ounce silver proof medal with the “P” Philadelphia mintmark. Collectors have purchased 49,355 of these. That is almost twice as many as the gold $100s, but at a $59.95 price. It means collectors have only shelled out just under $3 million – a tiny fraction of the cost of the gold coin.

A second offering of this medal took the form of a four-piece set struck at four mints with four finishes.

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The proof medal carries the “S” mintmark of San Francisco, the reverse proof medal carries the “P” mintmark of Philadelphia, the uncirculated medal has the “D” mintmark of Denver, and the enhanced uncirculated medal shows the “W” mintmark of West Point.

Cost of the set is $199.95. In the first 10 days of availability, collectors purchased 25,740 of these sets. That is a total outlay of more than $5.1 million.

The Mint has capped the mintage of the set at 50,000. It is too soon to tell if this will sell out. If it does, collectors will have paid $10 million.

Since the single medal offer was a regular mirror proof Philadelphia, there are actually five mintmark/surface finish combinations for this medal. Those who want completeness need all five.

So far, buyers have spent about $8.1 million of a possible $13 million. Either figure is far below the amount of money spent for the $100 gold coin.

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This has been a long way to get to the conclusion that collectors still show a strong preference for a coin versus a medal. This is true even as the silver medal is far cheaper than the gold coin.

There is a much larger number of collectors who are ready, willing and able to spend $59.95 or $199.95, yet those who actually spend the money are being outgunned by the smaller number of collectors who can afford $1,690.

It is too bad that this experiment could not have made one of the silver medals a one-ounce silver dollar. My guess is had the Mint done this, the sales of the silver dollar would have outdone the silver medals and generated a dollar sales figure larger than the medals but still smaller than the gold.

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News Express. >> Subscribe today

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