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This week’s letters (12/27/11)

I wrote a letter recently stating I was successful at placing my order for one 25th anniversary Eagle set. On Nov. 9, I received an email notifying me that my order was canceled. I called the Mint’s (800) number and was told it was because of my credit card. I called my card issuer and was told the transaction was approved on their end.
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After order cancellation, no more chances for U.S. Mint

I wrote a letter recently stating I was successful at placing my order for one 25th anniversary Eagle set. On Nov. 9, I received an email notifying me that my order was canceled.
I called the Mint’s (800) number and was told it was because of my credit card. I called my card issuer and was told the transaction was approved on their end. I called the Mint back and was told once the order had been canceled, and because the product was sold out, there was nothing that could be done.
U.S. Mint, shame. I wash my hands of the U.S. Mint. I will never buy a Mint product again. Orders will be filled for the profiteers and I will not buy this set at the current mark-up. I’m through.

SSG Jarrett Briscoe

Camp Arifjan, Kuwait

Reader’s suggestion offers U.S. Mint a sound solution

I just read Nov. 29 “Viewpoint” from Nathan Edington about how the Mint should handle their latest blunder. I feel it’s a good way to handle it, or the Mint can take pre-paid orders from anyone that didn’t get the chance to buy them.

Bill Clark

Willmar, Minn.

Eagle set’s rarest coin revealed in future, not now

The 25th anniversary silver American Eagle set contains the most sought-after coins for 2011. One of them will become the rarest, novice collectors may affect the outcome.
We know that two of the coins are very rare and special in the 25th anniversary silver American Eagle set. The Reverse Proof and the Mint State with the “S” mintmark. The other three coins in this set have already been released earlier in 2011.
Specifically they are as follows: the 2011 silver Eagle Proof “W,” the 2011 silver Eagle Mint State “W” and the 2011 silver Eagle Bullion version, with no mintmark.
The silver American Eagle with the “S” mintmark will have a total mintage of roughly 100,000 coins, but we should consider that one of the coins in the set has a population of approximately 8 percent year after year with a grade of 70. Hint: It’s not the silver American Eagle with the “W” mintmark.
It’s the coin the U.S. Mint made millions of this year, the regular silver Eagle (bullion version) has a population of only 7 percent to 9 percent in MS-70. You also have to consider the fact that the total population on the three coins mentioned is reduced with every opened set we see on the secondary market. The grading companies will not grade any of the three coins with the special 25th anniversary label if they have been opened.
No one will be able to prove that the coins originally came out of the five-piece 25th anniversary silver American Eagle set, if the box containing the sets was opened. This fact combined with the total average of perfect coins will reduce the total amount of probable MS-70s, and may surprise some coin collectors. Don’t forget that the secondary market price is based on rarity.
If the bullion version has only 65,000 available for grading because the original Mint cardboard box was opened, then it’s possible that only 500 to 550 coins will be graded as perfect MS-70 with the special 25th anniversary label.
What I’m trying to convey to everyone is that we don’t know which coin will be the most valuable until all the details are realized. The rarest coin of the set may be a surprise. But the chase will begin for the rarest one. How many people will be sorry if they realize that they gave a rare coin away for almost nothing?
Some coins will always be worth a good price in this set. You should collect the set for its beauty, but don’t be surprised if the bullion coin in this set with a grading company’s special 25th anniversary label will be worth the most.
I will not let any of my coins leave my hands until all the details are revealed.

Laurence J. Ramos

Medina, Ohio

Suggestion misses key factors of worth, collecting

My response is in regards to a comment a Nathan Edington made in the Nov. 29 Numismatic News “Viewpoint” titled “Rapid Sellout Shows Need for Fixes.” In it, he stated that “a fair compromise would be for the Mint to strike 50,000 or 100,000 more of these unique coins, and then give collectors the chance to purchase them, one each per customer, one each per household per day, up to a limit of three of each per household.”
With all respect to his opinion, from a collector’s standpoint, to encourage the Mint to take such actions in order to fix the problem would be in my opinion, the equivalent of telling the doctor to cut off one’s nose to spite one’s face. Think about the disastrous effects such actions would have on all of us who have spent a large part of our lives collecting coins.
Yes, it would be nice if everyone who wanted the 25th anniversary silver American Eagle set or the unique coins from that set could obtain one. But there is another side of coin that the writer failed to take into consideration, and that is, that while some may collect coins for simply the sake of collecting, others do so for investment purposes as well.
That being said, looking at it from the viewpoint of one who collects coins as an investment, what would happen to the investment value of these coins if the U.S. Mints were to take it upon themselves to simply produce more coins of the 25th anniversary silver American Eagle set so that everyone and their neighbor who wanted a set could purchase one? We already see as an example the effects mass production has had on the dollar bill. So why would we want to wish such an outcome on our own hobby as well?
For most of us who collect coins, we have put in a considerable amount of time and effort into accomplishing this feat. Through it all, we have had to deal with circumstances that were no fault of our own, when we were unable to acquire a certain coin that would complete a set; and to that end, we simply dealt with the obvious and moved on. And the reason why is that we take what we have achieved very seriously, and as collectors we appreciate that there will be times when the needs of the many will have to submit to the will of the few.
That’s why when I hear comments like those made above, it makes me wonder what are the possible motives behind their analogy. Are the ones who are suggesting such a solution really looking out for the good of the hobby or, are they motivated by the loss of their potential profits to resell the coins?
Sure, I know that there are those who legitimately have holes to fill in their collection and really desire the coins from this set. But then isn’t that what fueled their interest in collecting coins in the first place?
As ugly as it may seem, it is the desire that a person has to own the coin that makes the coins we own worth anything other than face value. Now if the Mint were to dilute that principle, by increasing the set limit to reproduce more coins in order to satisfy the masses, their actions will not only have a negative effect on the coins potential investment value, but eventually on the hobby of coin collecting as a whole.
It’s times like this that really test the mettle of coin collecting and gives it its worth. I’m sure that our generation of coin collectors are not the first to experience the rush that the 25th anniversary silver American Eagle set product, nor will we be the last. That is, provided that measures are maintained that ensure that set coin productions figures cannot be manipulated at will from within the branches of the U.S. Mint.

Mercury R. Williams

Seattle, Wash.

Mint could have happier clients and increased sales

I have read all the e-letters about the 25th anniversary set of American Eagles, and I agree the U.S. Mint is not fair in the order and distribution of this coin set. I suggest the Mint have an “open ended limit” on coin sets such as these, and give the public a 30-day time limit to order “high profile sets” like these, then after the 30 days are up, collectors can exercise the expanded option to reorder more sets, and, have the likelihood of getting the additional sets, if they wish to do so. The up side for the Mint is a reasonable price increase to cover the additional cost of production.

John S. Bulat

Address withheld

Shipping address cancels Eagle anniversary set order

I enjoy Numismatic News’ “Class of ’63” column, now for my tale of woe.
On the fateful sale day, I headed for my phone and computer. Three hours later, I was rewarded with an order for five sets, which were confirmed. About 10 days later, I received an email that my order was canceled due to “exceeding household limit.” As I am the only member of my household, I was concerned.
I immediately called customer service, and found out that I had requested that my coins be shipped to my office, and someone else also did this. As I work for a firm with over 100 employees, I was unaware of the other purchaser, but am happy that the U.S. Mint considers my firm to be household. No amount of speaking to representatives, supervisors and even the head office in Washington can get them to correct this obvious error in their policy. I was promised a return call from the head office supervisor, but am still waiting by my phone. The lack of competency in how the Mint handles in demand coin programs is staggering.
Now for a related topic: why would any rational person pay large sums of money for freshly minted coins that are judged to be graded “70” by the popes of grading? I am quite sure that in 25 years nobody will much care about the difference between a “70” and a “69” for so-called modern coins. We have become collectors of plastic, with fancy labels. I would love to see grading company representatives identify 10 “70” coins and 10 “69” coins, if the labels were covered up. I guarantee that no one could do it “correctly” two times in a row.

David Luftig

New York City, N.Y.

Why such a high order limit for Eagle anniversary set?

Concerning the recent fiasco concerning the American Eagle anniversary set sellout, there’s one thing that I can’t understand, unless there’s some collusion going on behind the scenes.
Why, in the name of good common sense, did the Mint allow purchasers to buy five of the sets? With only 100,000 produced, the Mint certainly should have envisioned an immediate sellout, even if the order limit had been set at one per order. To set the limit at five per order is just plain ridiculous.
Then, if they didn’t sell out at one per order, raise the limit to effect a sellout. Wouldn’t that have left a better taste in every collector’s mouth?

Merle J. Hyldahl

Honeoye, N.Y.

Sellout prompts reader to submit suggestion to Mint

Coin collecting is a hobby for everyone, it teaches the young to learn about history, design and value, and keeps us old codgers out trouble (most of the time). Life is good. Below is a letter I sent to Richard Peterson of the U.S. Mint. As the letter states, while I was one of the fortunate individuals who managed to order and receive a 25th anniversary silver American Eagle set, I felt it was important to share my feeling with Peterson and to offer what I believe may be potential steps that could be a solution to the black eye the Mint has received for this program:
Dear Mr. Peterson,
I am a coin collector who buys many items every year from the U.S. Mint. For the most part, the services provided by the Mint are acceptable and meet my needs. While I am sure you have received many letters, comments and complaints about the performance of the Mint for the 25th anniversary silver American Eagle sets, I would like to take this opportunity to provide you with my input about what appears to be a blatantly unfair sales program and a potential way to help the Mint provide a better way to meet the needs of their loyal customer base.
While I was one of the lucky individuals who happened to obtain one of the 25th anniversary sets, the experience was not something that the Mint needs to have tainting its reputation. I also understand that the entire sales system will be upgraded to alleviate the problems that occurred on Oct. 27, I would like to offer a suggestion to take the process a step further.
As a subscriber to several coin publications, I know that the Mint is already receiving many negative comments about the system and how it appears that speculative buyers, not the normal coin collecting public that buys products from the Mint on a regular basis, were able to obtain these sets and are now fleecing the public by significantly increasing the price, I wish to add my thoughts on how the system could be modified to prevent this perception.
The first step would be to limit how many sets an individual could purchase even further than the limits that were in place for this program. I would suggest making the limit one set per household until some significant amount of time has passed after which the limit could be raised and/or eliminated. Even with the five-set limit, when the average coin collecting public at large sees a company like Home Shopping Network having 500 sets, it sends the wrong message and makes one wonder whether the Mint had a pre-arrangement with Home Shopping Network where they were allowed to bypass the five-set limit. Add to this that these sets were being sold for either five times or 10 times the Mint price and it only adds to the negative perception. While I’m sure Home Shopping Network would bring up that the sets were graded by a third party, five to 10 times the Mint price is still viewed as ridiculous. Please keep in mind that most collectors understand that more than 99.5 percent of newly minted coins from the Mint will fall into the grades of 69 and 70, so the claim of rarity for the grade is unfounded.
The second step, which would have provided the loyal customers of the Mint the perception that the Mint does care about them, would have been to offer a single 25th anniversary silver American Eagle set to all customers who had active subscriptions to both the Proof Silver American Eagle program and the Uncirculated silver American Eagle program.
If the number of sets did not sell out using this dual approach, the Mint could have then offered a single set to Mint customers who had an active subscription to either the Proof silver American Eagle program or the Uncirculated silver American Eagle program. If there were still sets left after these two offers had been made, then the sets could be opened up to the general public with the one set limit still in place. As every Mint customer who have active subscriptions have provided the U.S. Mint with either their email address or their U.S. mail address, this entire process could have been handled without disrupting the normal flow of activities.
I realize it is too late for these items to be used for the 25th anniversary silver American Eagle program, but this will not be the last time that this type of issue will occur and the new ordering system will still not prevent this issue from happening the next time the Mint offers an item that true collectors would want to purchase. These remedies are also items that can be implemented with minimal extra steps, as the information is already in the possession of the U.S. Mint. Thank you for this opportunity to allow me to offer my thoughts on this issue.

Stacey L. Sanborn

Chandler, Ariz.

Green article is top read in any numismatic paper

I received my copy of the Oct. 11 issue of Numismatic News. I wish to extend my congratulations to you and Paul M. Green for a very informative and helpful article and lesson about U.S. paper money.
I learned much more than I ever expected from this piece, as will every other collector who has a chance to read it. This article is by far, the best that I have read in any of the big three; Numismatic News, Bank Note Reporter, or Coin World. Maybe there should be an award like the “Oscar,” “Emmys,” or “Peabody,” with a category for Hobby Papers.
In the past, Green has penned other articles that have inspired me, but this one was the best. I do not quite understand why he does not gather all of his published articles and put them into one book. He has the golden touch of writers, and I would purchase/read and use his book for reference anytime that I have a question about any historical or technical details of the U.S. coinage and currency. I just wish that he would elaborate more on the errors that have been produced, both for coins and paper currency.
This article would do well being re-published in Bank Note Reporter. That is what it should be publishing more of: educational, and full of useful facts.

Ed Zegers

Address withheld

Grading services, not just Mint, deserve collectors’ ire

I want to apologize from the outset, but I will be going into a tirade. Not against the editors or the publication of course, but at the hobby in general. If you can even call it a hobby anymore.
This has to do with the 25th anniversary Eagle sets (so what else is new?). Lately, I have been reading with interest about all the anger leveled at the Mint for their handling of the Eagle set issue. Frankly, I see much of it as whining and complaining. And why not? The Mint is an arm of the government, and what has it done right lately? Truthfully, however, the Mint is a business like any other business, and its objective is to make money (no pun intended). And like any other business, it will produce what they believe will sell to the masses, rather than cater to a relatively few “real” collectors.
The best example of this, of course, was the 2009 silver Eagle Proof issue, or non-issue as it were. This shows without a doubt that the Mint does not care for us little guys, but rather where the most money can be made. If I were to agree with any of the complaints against the Mint for the current 25th anniversary set situation, it would simply be that the ordering limit should have been one and not five.
My point in all of the above, is that while I have heard many a complaint about the Mint and its practices, I have not seen or heard one word about the grading companies, and how they are taking us all for a ride. Well, maybe not all of us, just us little guys again. The dealers and the bulk submitters are always taken care of. But I am ahead of myself.
Let’s start with the special labels for the sets. I will not be addressing First Strikes or Early Releases here because I would not make it home for Thanksgiving if I got into that fiasco. Okay, back to the special labels. The single word that gives the special label its uniqueness is the word “set.” As you know, in 2011 there have already been three silver eagle coins issued, and all grading companies have graded them with the 25th anniversary pedigree. And why not? It’s 2011, it’s been 25 years, let’s celebrate with a 25th anniversary label. These coins do not have the word “set” on the label, because they did not come in a set.
Fast forward to the 25th anniversary set. There are five coins, three of which have already been issued throughout the year as noted above, and two that are unique to the set. Along come the grading companies, and say that if you submit these sets in open boxes, the best they can do is give the three non-unique coins the same 25th anniversary labels they have been using throughout the year, and give the two unique coins the very special label that has the word “set.”
So everyone now must jump through the grading companies’ hoops, and make sure that they submit Mint-sealed boxes. As the grading companies will tell you, this is the only way to prevent tampering with sets in open boxes. The million dollar question is, of course, tampering to what end?
Well, imagine the following scenario. Use as an example one of the three non-unique coins in the set, say the 2011 Mint State. Are they saying that the Mint struck an additional 100,000 of these and the other two non-uniques to specifically insert into the sets? Probably not. More than likely, they took 100,000 out of their regular stock to insert into the sets. Either way, the coins are identical in every way.
If Mr. Collector receives a 25th anniversary set, opens it up, and much to his dismay, finds that the 2011 Mint State coin has a large scratch on the obverse in the empty field to the right of Miss Liberty.
He then goes to his cabinet, and pulls out a 2011 Mint State without a scratch, or worse yet, a previously graded MS-70, which he either purchased already graded, or had the coin graded himself, and breaks it out of the holder, exchanges it for the one with the scratch from the set and sends the set off to be graded. Lo, and behold, the entire set comes back graded MS-70. This collector then either keeps the set for himself as a showpiece, or sells it on the open market.
The bottom line question to the grading companies is who has he cheated, who has he wronged and who has he defrauded? I personally cannot think of any situation where any illegality or misrepresentation would enter into the tampering scenario. Can you?
I will be honest with you. As a collector, I would like to have a complete set of 25th anniversary Eagle coins issued throughout the year to commemorate this occasion. Do I care whether or not the label has the word “set” on it? Should I care? The grading companies say I should.
Think that’s it, do you? Well, think again. The grading company follies are just getting started. It has been reported that the grading companies did not receive any sets for grading before Nov. 9. If you surf eBay today, Nov. 17, you will find scores of auctions many of which began yesterday, Nov. 16th, for graded sets by the major grading companies. Many of the auctions are by totally recognizable dealers.
You do not even need to go to eBay. Modern Coin Mart had Numismatic Guaranty Corporation sets for sale at least two, maybe three days ago. Taking into consideration transit time to the graders, grading time itself, and transit time from the graders, you will soon realize, as I did, that this is a mathematical impossibility. This brings back very bad memories of the 2010 5-ounce America The Beautiful coin sets, where dealers had hundreds of coins graded before collectors received coin number one.
Do the grading companies favor the dealers and the bulk submitters? Well, you decide. But I will tell you that my five sets (okay, yes, in sealed Mint packaging) were received by a major grading company on Nov. 10, and, to its credit, the coins were scheduled for grading almost immediately. And? There they sit while a brisk business in graded sets is being done by dealers all over the internet, and passing me by.

Joe Rosenberg

Bloomfield, N.J.

Reader finds unexpected nickel during weekly ritual

My wife and I always shop yard sales on Fridays and Saturdays. We usually go to about 15 or 20. This past weekend was no exception. On Friday, we stopped at one and on the way back to the car, I looked down and in front of the car were a nickel and a penny. We are always picking up any kind of change. My wife calls it road kill.
Well, the nickel I picked up was a 1943-P. Who would have ever thought there would be one laying on the asphalt? Keep looking. They are out there when you least expect it.

Carl Coleman

Warner Robins, Ga.