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Can the U.S. Mint ever get it right?


News that the U.S. Mint will issue more 2012-S proof silver American Eagles is disappointing to those who ordered the San Francisco two-coin proof set issued to mark the 75th anniversary of the current S-mint facility in hopes of selling it at a profit on the secondary market.

Adding up to 100,000 more 2012-S proof Eagles to the supply can only devalue the 251,302 that were ordered as part of the two-coin set.

On the other hand, the information that there will be no additional surprise in the form of more reverse proofs will assure some sort of base from which the secondary market can sort out the set’s longer term value.

Perhaps there is a Claude Rains character in an office somewhere in Washington, D.C., who is shocked, shocked to discover speculation going on among collectors.

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On the other hand, it is obvious that someone is aware enough of the speculative interest in a 2012-S proof to include it in the Making American History Coin & Currency Set celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and the 220th anniversary of the U.S. Mint.

After all, if the set had included a 2012-W proof American Eagle, there would have hardly been a peep of protest. It can just as easily represent the Mint anniversary as the San Francisco issue.

For that matter, why is a proof necessary at all? Wouldn’t a bullion version of the American Eagle serve the purpose just as well? Yes, I know the Mint will claim it cannot sell any bullion coins directly to collectors.

But it could also just as easily have put the 2012-W uncirculated Eagle in the BEP set because the release dates in the first part of August are virtually identical.

You get my point. Any number of Eagles would have represented the Mint’s anniversary just as appropriately.

Somebody knew that the “S” proof might just goose sales a little bit more than otherwise and opted for it.

Can the Mint have it both ways? Playing with the collector speculative impulse with sets it has full control over (and therefore cannot blame Congress for any mishaps) and yet disclaiming any deliberate policy to stoke frenzies on the secondary market?

Certainly, there should be no limitation on the Mint’s ability to develop new products. That is a necessity for its long-term health as an institution. But as an institution, the Mint seems genuinely surprised each time it steps into another situation where collectors squawk.

Internally, it would appear that the Mint needs an employee who is a collector or who understands collectors well enough to evaluate how they will act to Mint offers individually and in relation to each other as in this case.

As the Mint says in its statement, “it may have been appropriate to announce our intentions to produce the coin and currency set earlier in the year or perhaps simultaneously with the two-coin set.”

Exactly – but the Mint needs someone to point this out before the squawks start.

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