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Shield collectors from randomness

Collectors like organizing principles. After all, what is collecting other than organizing chaos? On the other hand, the Mint likes marketing chaos. At least that is how I interpret what it is presently doing. What is the organizing principle behind the Mint’s issues of silver American Eagles to collectors? Since 1986, we have had annual proofs. But there have been more.

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This summer, the Mint will offer a second proof, this one with an “S” mintmark. Why, other than the Mint can? The regular proof is a “W.”

When was the last time the Mint issued an “S” mint proof silver Eagle? Give up? You are not alone. I could not recall it, either. You probably remember there was one. You might even own it. If there were some sort of organizing principle, we would all have the correct response.

The answer is in 2012 the Mint issued a San Francisco proof silver American Eagle in addition to the “W.” But in that year it also issued a San Francisco reverse proof.

Is there another extra “S” mint proof to recall? No, but there is an “S” mint uncirculated silver Eagle from 2011. It is often called burnished. This coin has an actual “S” mintmark on it as opposed to silver Eagle bullion coins that are slabbed as coming from the San Francisco Mint even though they do not have mintmarks on them. There is nothing wrong with any one of these issues, but add them up and what sort of pattern do you see? Any?

Do modern collectors need a pattern? I think we do. I think interest would be heightened and commitment deepened if we knew what the guiding principle was. Too many collectors simply accuse the Mint of shaking them down for cash. Certainly, the Mint needs to earn its keep with profits, but what is justified? A guiding principle would help us to know.

After the 2018-S proof silver Eagle is issued, when will the next one come? We don’t know.

In the old days, the Mint struck coins when depositors gave them the metal to do so and, later, when the banking system asked for them. The reason was the simple ebb and flow of commerce. However, for modern collector coins, there is no ebb and flow to monitor.

In the one recent case where the Mint was buffeted by real economic factors and could not issue proof collector Eagles in 2009 because of a shortage of blanks, collectors were livid. Why? It upset the one organizing principle we had of at least one regular proof issued each year.

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

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