With this post, I wanted to provide a recap of the release and sales of the Lincoln Coin and Chronicles Set. The reader response to the posts from Thursday and Friday has been incredible over 700 combined comments. You can check out the original posts and comments here and here. If you have some time and haven’t been following along already, you can read the comments to get a variety of collector impressions on this latest US Mint product release.
The Lincoln Coin and Chronicles Set went on sale October 15, 2009 at 12:00 Noon ET. For the first several hours of sales, the US Mint’s website slowed to a crawl, which made placing orders difficult. Some readers were able to get through by phone, but most received an automated message stating that the US Mint was unable to answer. By 5:00 PM ET, the US Mint had sold 29,919 sets.
Sales continued into the following day when orders could be placed more easily. On October 16, 2009 at 6:00 PM ET, the US Mint put up a waiting list notice, which indicated that the maximum number of sets had been sold. Orders would continue to be accepted for placement on a waiting list. In the event of cancellations, orders would be fulfilled from the waiting list on a first come, first serve basis.
At the time of this post, the US Mint is still accepting orders for the waiting list.
Why Did the Sell Out Take So Long?
While a sell out within 30 hours is impressive, many people (myself included) expected a sell out on the opening day of sales. I think one of the primary reasons for the slower than expected sell out is an overall reduction in speculative demand for US Mint products. Undoubtedly, there were people buying the Coin and Chronicles Set in order to resell it at a profit, but the scale of this practice probably wasn’t anywhere near the massive levels that took place a few years ago when one day sell outs were more frequent.
The last US Mint product to sell out in a day was the 2007 Thomas Jefferson’s Liberty First Spouse Gold Coin. The coins had a maximum authorized mintage of 40,000 and an ordering limit of one per option per household. Each customer could order a maximum of one proof and one uncirculated coin.
Around this time, some dealers were paying sizable “bonuses” for individuals who ordered and shipped the coins to them upon receipt. Check out this article from Susan Headley which describes the practice and some of the premiums paid for First Spouse Gold Coins. By the time the Thomas Jefferson coin was released, there was likely more speculative demand than actual demand for coins. When the secondary market proved much less robust than dealers expected, prices quickly deteriorated. After this ordeal, some dealers may have stepped back from the practice.
The “buy-to-flip” activity may have also died down on the individual level. Even without bonuses from dealers, individuals can still buy products and immediately resell them on eBay. Earlier this year products like the Lincoln Birthplace Two Roll Set (LP1) and William Henry Harrison Rolls (WH2 and WH4) made a big impression after they unexpectedly sold out and began selling for huge premiums on the secondary market.
Speculative activity perked up for the subsequent bags and rolls offerings, but similar gains failed to materialize. The US Mint also threw a curve ball with the second Lincoln Two Roll Set offering (LP2) by nearly tripling production from the prior level. After a year of hit and miss, some speculative buyers may have chosen to sit this one out.
Whatever your opinion on the practice, speculative buying or buying for immediate resale does have a significant impact of the level of US Mint product sales, the pace of sell outs, and secondary market prices. The US Mint uses household order limits to curtail the practice and also (unintentionally) discourages the practice by being unpredictable. No matter what policies are in place, speculative demand will always exist and continue to impact collectors of US Mint products.
Beside the impact of reduced speculative buying, two more factors may have slowed the sell out. First, the US Mint may have lost some customers after the disappointment created by the cancellation of the 2009 Proof Silver Eagle and other products. After the news broke, many customers stated in comments here and elsewhere, that they would not be purchasing anything else from the US Mint. Second, the economy may have played a factor as people are being more careful about what they purchase.
Third Party Grading
Comments in some of the previous posts expressed concern about third party grading services like NGC or PCGS creating some type of special label for the coins in the Lincoln Coin and Chronicles Set. As a few readers pointed out, this seems somewhat ridiculous since one of the most appealing aspects of the set is the packaging. To take the coins away from the packaging, and instead put them in a holder with the words “Coin and Chronicles Set” seems kind of silly.
I contacted NGC and PCGS to try to confirm their intentions for the set. NGC quickly responded that coins in the set will not receive any special recognition. If submitted, they will be graded as regular proof coins. PCGS has not responded to my inquiry.
Secondary Market Prices
Secondary market prices for the Lincoln Coin and Chronicles Set are now around the $150 level, after dipping to around $125 late Thursday and early Friday. (View current auctions.) The number of pre-sales listed has increased with more than 140 sets currently listed. Once the coins start to be received by collectors, usually an influx of new listings appear. In the past, this influx has served to temporarily depress prices.
I don’t have a crystal ball, but I think this set will continue to trade at a decent premium. Even though it does not contain any unique coins, the US Mint has created an appealing and historical set with a limited production. This year, collectors have been more willing to pay a premium for US Mint packaging. In the case of the Coin and Chronicles Set, at least the packaging is something unique and special, instead of a plain white box stamped with a product code.
The set also has some potential for broader appeal beyond coin collectors. While most collectors were aware of the set and had a window of opportunity to order directly from the US Mint, others from outside the coin collecting community were likely not aware of the offering. If demand starts to emerge from other channels, this would further bolster prices.
Lastly, if I am correct that this product had less speculative purchases than other sell outs, this will bode well for the long term prospects of the set. With more coins in the hands of collectors who intend to keep them, there will be less supply on the secondary market. A limited supply combined with steady demand would serve to keep prices high and prevent the boom and bust experienced by the early issues of the First Spouse Gold series.
With the Lincoln Coin and Chronicles release over, the next product on the US Mint’s release schedule is the 2009 Proof Gold Buffalo. This coin has a tentative release date of October 29, 2009. Ordering information and details of the release are still not available from the US Mint.
On October 15, 2009, the bullion version of the coins actually went on sale. Since these are bullion coins, they cannot be purchased directly from the US Mint. They are sold to the Mint’s network of authorized bullion purchasers, who resell the coins to other dealers and the public.
I will have more details on the 2009 Proof Gold Buffalo offering as details become available. I will also track the status of the bullion coins sales and report anything of note.