By William H. Brownstein
If history is any guide, there isn’t a lot of logic about what the U.S. Mint includes or excludes from its sets.
When mint sets started in 1947, it included one of each coin produced by each mint. The coins were uncirculated quality and consisted exclusively of the regular issue coins.
From 1965 through 1967, the U.S. Mint, to try to satisfy the public for the lack of proof sets, issued what it referred to as Special Mint Sets, this time having only one coin of each denomination reflecting the lack of mintmarks of the time. Then the fun and games started.
In 1970, with the price of silver rising, the U.S. Mint issued 40 percent silver Kennedy half dollars only in the proof and mint sets. The mintage of the “S” proof coin ended up at 2,632,810 and of the 1970-D 40 percent silver coin 2,150,000. There were no 1970 half dollars from Philadelphia continuing the minting pattern adopted in 1968. Also by 1970, I presume the fact that the price of silver was on the rise and the U.S. Mint did not have congressional authority to change the composition of the issue from 40 percent silver to the present issue reinforced it. Philadelphia began striking halves when the composition changed to copper-nickel in 1971.
More fun and games occurred in 1976 with the Bicentennial when the U.S. Mint issued proof and uncirculated 40 percent silver quarters, half dollars and dollars in special there-coin sets. Those, like the 1970 issues, were only intended for sale to collectors.
In 1996, the Mint included a one year only “W” mintmarked dime in the 1996 mint set. As such, the only way to get a 1996-W dime, the only dime issued so far with the “W” mintmark, was to buy a 1996 mint set.
I recall people giving away the 1996 mint sets at face value and keeping the dime so that they would have the special issue, which has a value today of about $25 for the coin with a mintage of 1,457,000.
The America the Beautiful quarters, unlike the West Point dime, have a real attraction because their design changes five times a year and doesn’t remain the same as has been the case with the modern dime since 1946.
The U.S. Mint issued a half dollar that was part of the Robert F. Kennedy/John F. Kennedy commemorative set that didn’t carry much fanfare but resulted in a true rarity. The 1998-S matte silver finish Kennedy half dollar had a final mintage of only 63,500. I believe that the issue price of $63 at the time was very high and as a result sales were lethargic.
I note that, like the 2012-S silver American Eagle set that was issued to demand for a limited period, this set had a limited time period in which to order it.
Fast forward to 2012 and look at the issuance of the 2012-S circulation strike quarters that are not going into circulation. For the purist, a standard metal strike of a 2012-S quarter dollar is available by buying a standard proof set. The circulation strike “S” quarter is now another option.
However, the 1998-S matte silver finish Kennedy half dollar and the circulation strike coin is a different animal than the proof issue strike of the same metallic composition.
The modern issues of mint sets have run in the vicinity of 657,322 for the 2009 mint set to 916,466 for the 2011 mint set. Those sets include the half dollars and golden dollars, which in 2012 are otherwise only available for purchase in bags or rolls. However, as many collectors noted, the 2012 mint sets excludes 2012-S copper clad quarter dollars.
If the past is any indication, telemarketers will promote the ATB state quarter sets, just as they did the state quarter sets, and it may turn out that the quantity of the sales of the 2012-S circulation quality quarters will only barely cover the demand of telemarketers.
My suspicion is that the 2012-S quarters were an afterthought, and it was decided to issue this coin to mollify the public for the discontent stemming from the 2011 25th Anniversary Eagle debacle, and the U.S. Mint powers-that-be did not fully think this out before undertaking its efforts to strike and sell circulation quality quarter dollars from the “S” mint.
The U.S. Mint will not recognize its mistake and include 2012-S quarter dollars in the current mint sets, and 2012-S may turn out to be a one-year circulation quality quarter dollar in order for the Mint to try to save face and not deal with the question of including them in its future mint sets in 2013 and beyond. There is precedent for such action. For example, take a look at the fractional gold Buffalo coins.
In closing, I suspect that the 2012-S quarters were an afterthought by the U.S. Mint and that they will be a one-year issue and that it may open the door to telemarketers and speculators to try to capitalize on the unique opportunity to market these as rarities and drive up prices. Whether history will repeat itself and we will have another craze similar to the roll craze of the early 1960s, only time will tell.
William H. Brownstein is a hobbyist from southern California.
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