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Too many coins a universal problem

The Olympic Summer Games will be held in London this summer and as was the case with the Atlanta Summer Games in 1996, the British, like the Americans before them, have issued a huge Olympic coin set to commemorate the Games.

In the case of the British, the full coin set is 68 coins, which is a number that puts the Atlanta total of 32 in the shade. Larger gold coins and higher gold prices are having the expected effect in pushing up issue prices for the British offerings.

And on cue as in the United States before them, hobbyists are complaining about the set.

London dealer Richard Lobel, it was reported in The Independent newspaper article last week, after 38 years is giving up being an agent for the British Royal Mint. He says too many people are shocked to discover that they can sell the coins only for one-third to one-half the price they pay for them.

"I'm tired of how many people's hearts we've had to break," Lobel said.

Will the British follow the American example and eventually cap the number of commemorative coins at levels far lower than the present number?

That was the happy outcome of the 1995-1996 U.S. Olympic program. Now programs are limited to two each year and often a program includes just one silver dollar design in proof and uncirculated. Sometimes, they include a clad half dollar, a silver dollar and a $5 gold piece.

But while commemoratives have been successfully limited in the United States, proliferation in the number of coins being sold to collectors is not a problem that has gone away. The Congress has been authorizing many bullion coin programs from the 5-ounce silver America the Beautiful coins with denominations of 25 cents each to a pending palladium coin with a Mercury dime design.

So the cycle continues. Too many coins lead to collector complaints. When will the next round occur in the United States?