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Mint seems to be sliding into gimmickry

HarperD_color.jpgWould you have ordered one of the 20,000 American Eagle 20th Anniversary Gold and Silver Sets for $850 each had you known that these uncirculated coins, with the ?W? mintmark, also would go on sale individually just one month later on Sept. 28?

Many collectors are asking that question. The 2006-W uncirculated one-ounce gold coin is being offered at $720 and the 2006-W uncirculated one-ounce silver coin is being offered at $19.95. The price of the two coins bought separately is $739.95. This is $110.05 cheaper than the anniversary set.

Is there a difference besides how the coins are housed? Not that I am aware.

A sharp-eyed reader who read the Mint?s press release on its Web site e-mailed me the question. Those persons who weren?t mesmerized by the 20,000 limit on the anniversary set and didn?t order are probably giving each other high fives. Those persons who ordered thinking this might somehow be a limited offer, might be holding up a single finger to the Mint, at least the eBay sellers who are trying to get $905-$1,165 for the two-coin set might be.

Then again, perhaps the packaging will make all the difference and the market will distinguish between the 2006-W coins in the one set and those offered separately.

Whatever the case, the topic I raised in this space two weeks ago seems as apt as ever. The Mint is sliding down the slippery slope of gimmickry. The uncirculated gold and silver coin offers in the Mint?s seasonal sales catalog makes my point for me. You need to sit down with your lawyer to review the texts of Mint press releases to determine precisely what it is the Mint is doing.

By mating the two-coin uncirculated set offer with the three-coin gold proof set and the three-coin silver proof set and listing a limited mintage of 20,000, a conclusion some hobbyists would draw is that this would be the only way to get the ?W? mintmarked uncirculated gold and silver Eagles. Did the Mint say that? No, certainly not anywhere I can find in the press release posted on the Web site. But the Mint did say of the reverse proof gold and silver coins in the other two sets that, ?These coins are only available in the three-coin sets that celebrate the 20th anniversary of the American Eagle Programs.? There is no similar statement relating to the two-coin uncirculated set. What is said is, ?American Eagle Gold and Silver Uncirculated Coins are being introduced in 2006. These coins feature the same finish as their bullion counterparts, but unlike the American Eagle Bullion Coins, the American Eagle Uncirculated Coins bear the mint mark of the facility that produces them and follow a different path through the manufacturing process. Specifically, the planchets used for American Eagle Uncirculated Coins are burnished, while those used for American Eagle Bullion Coins are not.?

Now I realize I am not a lawyer, but I read that paragraph as saying the new mintmarked coins ?feature the same finish as their bullion counterparts? and then goes on to say that their planchets ?are burnished, while those used for American Eagle Bullion Coins are not.?

One seems to say the direct opposite of the other. Or is that just me?

Let?s look at the platinum Eagles. The Mint has set up a pattern where the uncirculated bullion coins feature one design, the original design, while the annual proof versions have reverse design changes. Well, now we will have a mintmarked uncirculated version with the annual design change that had been previously restricted to the proof issue.

Did the Mint break a promise by doing this? Not that I am aware of. But what it is doing is creating a third version of coins struck in very expensive metal.

Does the Mint have the right to strike new versions? Sure. They can strike 10 different ones with proper authorizations. What?s to stop it from trying this?

The Mint is returning old sets from prior years to current sales. This it has a right to do, especially when Congress approves it, but I don?t think it is good business. Collectors will tire of gimmickry and that will hurt.


Send your comments and questions to Dave Harper at e-mail address david.harper@fwpubs.com. Include your city and state so your message can be considered for our letters to the editor section.

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