Editor’s Note: The following message from David J. Ryder, U.S. Mint director, regarding the Mint’s numismatic program was posted on its website Nov. 18.
Dear Mint Customers,
I want to take this opportunity to speak to you about the Mint’s approach to our numismatic program.
First off, the United States Mint is unique in that we are an agency of the Federal Government, and also a retail sales organization. The goal of our numismatic program is to serve the American people by producing coins and medals that tell America’s story, are desirable to our customers, and generate net earnings. Net earnings not required for Mint operations are transferred to the United States Treasury general fund and ultimately benefit you, the taxpayer.
During my tenure as Mint Director, I have challenged my staff to come up with new and creative products to energize, excite, and expand the collector community. My team has met this objective on many occasions, most recently with our products honoring the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II and our collaboration with the Royal Mint commemorating the 400th anniversary of the trans-Atlantic journey of the Mayflower.
As we look to provide the market with innovative and interesting products, we engage in market research and solicit feedback from the numismatic community. Our forecasting team examines historical performance and gleans insights on current customer interests and also assesses any new product’s overall potential. When we develop mintage limits for our numismatic products, we use our best efforts to come up with what we think are mintages that will satisfy customer demand and ultimately sell out. Contrary to the belief of some, we’re not happy when a product sells out immediately —that means that we underestimated demand and disappointed many customers. On the other hand, we don’t want to set mintages so high that we’re left with unsold inventory, which results in additional expense when we recycle the coins and medals and dispose of the packaging. Finding the right number is part art and part science. Most of the time I think we’re successful, but in the case of the World War II 75th Anniversary products we clearly underestimated demand.
As many of you are aware, a slowdown of the Mint’s online sales website caused frustration for many of our loyal customers, who were unable to purchase their desired product. One contributing factor is that there were 390,000 users attempting to access the website during one time frame, which is more than triple the capacity we had planned for. I can also tell you that our solutions to prevent automated purchases by “bots” also put an immense strain on our website and can lead to unintended issues for other legitimate purchasers. The overwhelming demand for these products outpaced our website capacity in ways that we are still trying to better understand and remedy. That said, more than 75 percent of 75th Anniversary End of World War II products were purchased by the Mint’s registered customers. I have asked my team to do a thorough analysis of what went wrong, and, by balancing capacity versus cost, come up with long-term, lasting solutions that will provide our customers with a vastly improved buying experience.
Also, we have different sets of customers purchasing our products, including individual collectors and dealers. We do not provide preferential treatment to any of our customers, be they individual collectors or professional coin dealers, and we have measures in place, both automated and manual, to ensure that household order limits are adhered to. We have seen an increase of activity by another sector of customers—buying groups who offer to pay a premium to individuals who purchase our high-demand products. This sector is one of the reasons you are seeing high prices for our products on the secondary market. The Mint has no control over what individuals do with their numismatic products once they are purchased. Some customers choose to add these coins and medals to their collections, while others choose to sell them for a profit.
In summary, I and my team are working to change the way the Mint has done business in the past. We endeavor to produce numismatic products that our customers will value. Along the way, we’ve made mistakes, and are doing our absolute best to learn from those mistakes. I thank you for your loyalty as a Mint customer, and look forward to your continued presence with us as we continue our journey of celebrating America through our numismatic products.