Since at least 2012 British and Australian collector coins have been being encapsulated by third party certification services designating the coins as being first strike examples. The number of world coin issues certified with this designation has slowly increased but continues to expand. An example is the Somalia 2018 Elephant silver coins from the African Wildlife set currently being advertised by at least one e-Bay seller as a first strike, accompanied by certificates of authenticity but not certified as such by any third-party certification service.
There are increasing numbers of recently issued coins that are being submitted to third party certification services to be graded and designated as First Strike or (in philatelic terms) First Day of Issue. An ‘early find’ designation is also becoming popular for recent U.S. coins.
These coins are often sold for a premium due to this designation. Are collectors buying the slab (encapsulation) or are they buying the coin? Can anyone detect any difference in quality of these earliest strikes from later strikes. Yes, there are what are called late die state strikes, but a late die state coin is a business strike produced from a die that has worn to the point the die appears to be deteriorating. This deterioration is reflected in coins struck from such a die.
According to website TheSpruceCrafts.com, “It is not certain who first thought of the ‘First Strike’ concept, but they were a marketing genius. He or she managed to create a perception of value, for an otherwise ordinary coin, based on nothing more than when the U.S. Mint shipped it to the customer and when it was submitted to the third-party grading service!”
According to the USMint.gov website the U.S. Mint does not “track the order in which we mint such coins during their production” What this means is that if someone ships coins just received from a mint to a certification service this doesn’t prove these are the first strike coins. It only indicates these are the first coins the mint released from its stockpile. It further doesn’t suggest the coins were all produced from a single die, or that coins struck from a second die couldn’t be of the same high quality.
CoinValues.com posted, “First Strike coins are commonly advertised on television home-shopping network ads, which are often viewed by people who have relatively little knowledge of coins. Why is that particular demographic important to those who sell First Strike coins? Because many experienced coin collectors have learned that the term “First Strike” is often a marketing ploy used by some retailers to make a coin sound special.”
U.S. and world coin dealer APMEX.com add their observation, “In a market that recognizes the slightest nuances, a coin’s origin story can potentially add significant value. This is certainly true for historical coins. This is also part of the reasoning behind the coin classification known as ‘Early Release’ or ‘First Strike,’ which identifies coins among the first minted during production.”
According to Professional Coin Grading Service, “The PCGS First Strike program designates coins issued in the first 30 days of the mint’s release. This designation not only adds value to modern coins, but takes modern coin collecting to another level with multiple mint releases each year.”
Due to a lawsuit, Numismatic Guarantee Corporation of America changed its designation from First Strike to Early Release, the newer designation likely being more accurate considering the U.S. Mint’s comments.
This is not meant to suggest First Strike, Early Release, and Early Find designations are meaningless, or that the encapsulated coins are necessarily overpriced. Pricing is up to the dealer offering the coins and can only be kept at a premium value if collectors are willing to pay a premium for coins with such designations.
With coins of the world including Austria, Australia, Canada, China, Niue, Somalia, South Korea, Tuvalu, the United States, as well as some medals and bullion ‘rounds’ being certified with these designations’ collectors should remember to buy the coin, not the slab.