This article was originally printed in the latest issue of Numismatic News.
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A flood of complaints about high prices caused the U.S. Mint to postpone the beginning of sales of the 5-ounce America the Beautiful silver bullion coins.
The Mint was supposed to begin selling 165,000 of the new 3-inch diameter pieces to its Authorized Dealer Network on Dec. 6. However, before the day was finished, the Mint issued a statement saying it was not confirming any sales that day.
With silver selling for about $30 an ounce, the 5-ounce bullion coin would contain about $150 worth of silver. Tack on the $9.75 premium the Mint was charging dealers, and the coins were selling for about $160 each.
But secondary market prices quoted to Numismatic News readers were as high as $259 a coin, a $99 mark-up.
That’s roughly a 62 percent premium and much more than collectors who make up the market wanted to bear.
The 33,000 per coin mintage totals for the five designs apparently excited the marketplace and incited a clamor among would-be buyers.
No transactions can actually be consummated until the Mint begins shipping the coins out to its Authorized Purchaser dealer network. When that will be was in question as this issue of Numismatic News went to press.
“The United States Mint is aware of reports of concern by many consumers about the high prices and premiums being charged in the market for the newly released America the Beautiful silver bullion coins,” said Tom Jurkowsky, U.S. Mint director of public affairs. “We are evaluating these reports and collecting information in order to assess the appropriate course of action to make certain that our customers are best served in the distribution of the coins, and to ensure the widest possible availability, accessibility and affordability of these coins.”
Collector versions will be sold directly to collectors by the Mint in the first quarter of 2011. Mintages for them will be similar at 27,000 for each design, but the Mint will set the issue price.
The numismatic versions will not be proof, but have a surface that is vapor blasted after they are struck.
This, the Mint said, is the same finish used on its 3-inch bronze medals.
It further explained that the machine “uses a water vapor and ceramic media mix. It is similar to sand blasting but instead of using dry compressed air, it uses a compressed wet vapor. The finish is applied to the coin after striking and not to the die. This will provide a consistent coin-to-coin finish.”