When the United States Mint halted sales of the four 2014 Presidential dollar and First Spouse medal sets, buyers noticed and began a buying frenzy for the $10 sets, sending prices on the secondary market as high as $200 at one point for the rarest set.
Might this be a prime example of the dangers of artificial rarity?
Gary Rosencrans, owner of Gary’s Coins, Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., called the cut-off of sales one more stupid stunt by the Mint.
“When the Mint creates artificial rarity, I stay away,” he said. “I see so many examples that go wrong. That’s happened enough times in the past.”
Artificial rarity is what’s causing the 2014 sets to reach such price levels, he said.
“I think that real rarities need to have a wide collector base and strong sales,” he said. “Think of all the people who stood in line for the gold Kennedy. Sure, there were a lot of sales for them right away, but then the dust settled.
“The same goes for the 4-coin Kennedy silver set. I’ve been selling some of those for below their initial price.”
The 2014 Presidential dollar and First Spouse medal sets were first offered by the Mint for $10 each beginning in August of 2014. The last set was released in October 2014. Between Jan. 4 and Jan. 11 of 2015, the Mint capped sales at 4,500 for the first three (Harding, Coolidge and Hoover) and 7,000 for the Roosevelt set.
Since then, prices have risen for them on eBay. Latest averages for sold listings place Harding and Coolidge in the $60 to $75 range, Hoover between $160 and $180 and Roosevelt at $25. At one point, several buyers purchased Hoover sets for over $200.
Prices dropped slightly during late March when another set, the 2014 First Spouse medal set, featuring only the four medals for that year but not the dollar coins, went back on sale at the Mint. When the Mint cut off sales for this medal set again, prices for the 2014 Presidential dollar and First Spouse sets went back on the rise as of mid April.
Rosencrans said that although prices are high, the collector base may not be strong enough to support them.
“Take Bradford plates for an example,” he said. “They advertise that they’ll only make 10,000 a design. And I say there’s only 71 collectors.
“Unless it has a strong collector base, the prices won’t sustain themselves.”
Kevin Crane of L&C Coins, Los Alamitos, Calif., said that while they have received calls about the sets, they’ve never had enough customer interest to invest in them.
“As a business, you have to weigh what your customers want and what you can sell,” he said. “I think them including a medal limits the interest of collectors. We’re a coin company. We focus on coins.”
Interest in the sets seems to be driven by speculators interested in the low production amount, he said.
“When something becomes rare, there’s more interest in it,” he said. “You see it with the First Spouse gold coin series as well. There’s not a lot of collectors, so the mintages are low. Then, people see the low mintages and bring up the market on them.”
As for those buying into what could be an artificially rare market at its height, they stand to lose a lot if it comes down in a year’s time, he said.
“The buyers are the ones determining the price on these sets so if they feel burned, it’s their own fault,” Crane said. “It’s what they make of it.”
If there was any negative evidence for why the market for the 2014 sets will come down, it’s found in the sales of their predecessors.
The 2013 Presidential dollar and First Spouse Medal sets, which are also out of stock on the Mint website, have even lower production totals than the 2014 sets. The McKinley, Taft and both Wilson sets saw between 3,975 and 3,990 of sold while the Theodore Roosevelt set had 4,982 purchased.
On eBay, the 2013 sets have realized a little more than $25 on average. In 2015, the highest price paid for one was just $44.95, a far cry from what the Hoover set is bringing in today.