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World mint issues abound

Trying to get your head wrapped around the sheer numbers of new issues produced by the world's mints in any given year is a challenge. Seeing many of them or learning of their existence in a short span of time at the World Money Fair in Berlin is almost overwhelming.

Many of the new coin issues are virtually custom jobs designed and manufactured to appeal to the specific client base of a specific marketer. I attended a meeting with Coin Invest Trust with my colleagues here in Germany. There I learned that the nature of their business has gone to 90 percent project management and only 10 percent to marketing coins. What that means is if you had a client list of golfers who might want to buy coins depicting the world's famous golfers, you can take your idea to Coin Invest Trust and that firm will line up a government for you to sanction the program and thereby bestow legal tender status on whatever is created, determine what metals the coins should be produced in, what weight, diameter, etc., they should be, commission a sculptor-engraver to do the design work and hire a specialty mint to strike them. You hardly have to do more than order the coins and pay the bill for them upon delivery.

Off-the-shelf dies can cut the lead time on crash programs to as little as three weeks. Such speed is staggering.

Mintages, though, can be quite tiny. I was shown examples of recent issues. Some have mintages as small as 77. Think about that. The American grading system has 70 points in it, almost as many as the number of coins in certain of these coin issues. Other issues are larger in number but still quite low if you use U.S. Mint mintages as a yardstick.

This availability of minting expertise means a collector can far more precisely buy what appeals to him. The downside, of course, is this level of customization means theoretically that this collector could desire such a narrow theme that he would be the only one interested in it.

What this portends for long-term resale value is yet to be worked out. However, it does provide an incentive for the world mints to get all of their coin issues into the Standard Catalog of World Coins. After all, if you are a dealer or even another buyer on eBay, you might not have heard of a specific theme with a mintage of 77. It would take a catalog entry to confirm its official issuance and provide a sort of green light to making the purchase.

All of this adds up to the fact that my colleague, Tom Michael, of the catalog staff will continue to be very busy here and when he gets back to the office.