By Charlie Ross
I have been a coin collector for more than 50 years and collect U.S., ancient Greek, and ancient Roman coins. The hobby has been a lot of fun for me, and I have migrated through various types of collections, sold them, and then moved to another area of focus a number of times.
A major puzzlement to me has been the policies and practices of the U.S. Mint regarding production and sale of collector coins. Putting aside the absurdity of making more varieties of 25-cent and dollar coins than the public wants, cares about, or in most cases, even know exist, and then storing them at taxpayers’ expense, it unbelievably gets even worse.
For example, consider the collector coins (gold Mercury dime, Standing Liberty quarter, Walking Liberty, and Kennedy half dollars and palladium one-ounce Mercury coin) produced by the Mint that restricted the number sold so dealers could quickly buy and resell a number of them at substantial markups. Does anyone think this makes any sense or is fair to the taxpayer public? And before anyone parrots the often-heard retort that the Mint just follows what Congress says, that is nonsense. The Mint is the expert on producing and selling U.S. coins. Why don’t they advise Congress before producing “collector coins” of the stupidity of this approach and how to better manage the program? If it is going to be done so poorly, then stop the programs altogether.
Taxpayers fund the Mint. In essence, they are our employees. Do you think they act like they are employees? Why would they not make all the coins available that collectors wish to buy? The Mint makes a substantial margin on collector coins they produce and sell, so why wouldn’t they want to maximize this windfall of revenue? I suspect all collectors have an opinion on this subject, and mine is that they simply do not care about collectors or bringing in extra revenue. It is though our desire for interesting collector coins is a nuisance to the Mint.
There are obvious solutions to the various issues I can think of regarding why the Mint’s performance is so bad, yet they conduct surveys like Mr. McClary discusses in the Nov. 18, 2018, issue that purposely do not solicit actual collector feedback as to needed improvement. How convenient to be in a monopolistic position seeking no real customer feedback or worrying about correcting obvious problems.
For example, if the Mint does not have capacity to do a decent job, then outsource the work. I bet you won’t have to dial 20 times and wait an hour on the phone trying to buy a coin to then find it sold out. I doubt any of us have that problem with eBay, Amazon, coin auction houses, or dealer websites, do we? Somehow they are able to promptly answer our inquiries and sales requests, yet the Mint cannot. You don’t suppose they don’t care and/or it has something to do with the well-known inefficient and non-caring attitude we have all encountered when dealing with the U.S. government, do you?
There is a funny thing I found out when dealing with U.S. government agencies. On the rare occasion someone actually seemed to care about helping me, I asked them if they worked for the U.S. government. After an initial yes, I asked if they were a federal employee or an outside company contracted by the government. Every time, they have been employed by an outside company, never the U.S. government!
This “Viewpoint” was written by Charlie Ross, a hobbyist from Florida.
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