As we continue to move closer to the end of the year, there are many US Mint numismatic coins which have experienced slow sales, which could potentially translate into low mintages.
I’ve discussed some possibilities in previous posts, as well as explored the idea that low mintages don’t seem to be making the same impression that they once did. Nonetheless, mintages will always be an important measure of the absolute supply of a certain coin. Historically, anticipating low mintages and using this information to make purchasing decisions has allowed collectors the opportunity to get into future key issues early in the cycle.
Of course, not every possibility works out- so I will try to provide potential downside risks. Nearly all coins discussed carry precious metals price risk, since a large portion of the cost is based on the metal content. I also will only discuss coins that have already been released and are currently available.
All sales figures are from the newly issued US Mint Numismatic Sales Report.
2011-W Uncirculated Gold Eagle
After a two year hiatus, the US Mint resumed the offering of collectible uncirculated versions of the Gold and Silver Eagle. In the past, these offerings have created some key issues like the 2006-W Uncirculated Silver Eagle and the 2008-W Uncirculated $10 Gold Eagle. During the period of initial availability, collectors seem to prefer the proof versions of the coin and overlook the uncirculated versions.
The 2011-W Uncirculated Gold Eagle has sold 5,540 coins to date, with just 32 added in the past week. Barring anything unforeseen, this issue should have the lowest mintage of any regular issue American Gold Eagle in the history of the series. The current low mintage is the 2008-W Uncirculated $10 Gold Eagle at 8,883.
Some potential downsides would be the issuance of any type of collector product that also contains the coin. For example, if the US Mint later announces a 25th Anniversary Gold Eagle Set which includes the coin, the overall mintage would be driven higher by sales of the set. Another potential downside is the period of availability. The US Mint has grown more unpredictable with their product offering time frames. If the US Mint produces a large inventory of these coins before year-end, they could be offered for many months into the following year. Finally, if the US Mint continues to issue collectible uncirculated Gold Eagles, future releases could have even lower mintages, especially if gold prices continue higher.
2011-W Proof $25 Gold Eagle
This year’s proof Gold Eagles are selling much slower compared to last year. The slowest sales have occurred for the one-half ounce proof coin, which has sold 3,805 units individually and 10,960 through the 4 coin set. This makes for total sales of 14,765. The lowest mintage for a Proof Gold Eagle is the 2008-W $10 Gold Eagle at 18,877 across all product options.
Potential downsides include those mentioned above: issuance in a special set, the continuation of sales, and future low mintages. Another is the lack of premium for existing lower mintage proof Gold Eagles. Secondary market prices for existing issues of the series are essentially the same across each denomination, regardless of mintage level. At some point a sufficiently low mintage might create some key date allure, but perhaps we are not at that point yet.
2011 Army Commemorative Half Dollars
For the first time since 2008, the US Mint’s commemorative coin program includes a clad half dollar. There are 17 other modern commemorative half dollars that have been issued since 1982.
Sales of the uncirculated 2011 Army Half Dollar are currently 35,825. If the pace of sales continues around the current level, this might set a new low. The current low is held by the 1996-S Olympic Swimming Half Dollar at 49,533.
The proof 2011 Army Half Dollar has current sales of 62,361. This has the potential to set a new low amongst proof modern commemorative half dollars. The current low is the proof 2001 Capitol Visitor Center Half Dollar at 77,962.
One of the biggest potential downsides is the cost of $19.95 (uncirculated) or $21.95 (proof) for a coin with no precious metals content. If there is not sufficient demand for the coin on the secondary market, there is no backstop for the value. Another issue is the obverse design, which was harshly ridiculed and rejected by both the CFA and CCAC. Finally, even if there is a low mintage, a premium may never develop for the issue. The only modern commemorative half dollars which sell for a significant premium are the uncirculated 1996-S Olympic Soccer Half Dollar and 1996-S Olympic Swimming Half Dollar. This premium may be the result of a halo effect from being a part of the desirable low mintage 1995-1996 Olympic Commemorative Coin Program. The 2003-P First Flight Half Dollar, with a mintage less than 10% higher than the Soccer Half Dollar, does not carry a premium.
2011 Army and Medal of Honor $5 Gold Coins
I wrote about these issues at length in this post. Shortly afterward, there was a substantial increase in sales, but this has recently slowed down after the US Mint suspended the coins and increased prices.
The 2011 Army $5 Gold has sold 16,240 proof coins and 7,051 uncirculated coins. The 2011 Medal of Honor $5 Gold has sold 16,766 proof coins and 7,318 uncirculated coins. Any modern commemorative $5 gold coin with a mintage under 10,000 currently sells for a premium. The lowest mintage and highest premium is for the 1997-W Jackie Robinson $5 Gold Coin with a mintage of 5,174.
The lowest proof modern commemorative $5 gold coin is the 1996 Smithsonian at 21,840. It seems that this year’s proof issues should have mintages lower than this.
2011 First Spouse Gold Coins
I have also written on many occasions about the low mintages for the First Spouse Gold Coins. The length of the series, the obscurity of some of the figures depicted, and the escalating cost have kept sales low. Since 2008, essentially all issues of the series have had extremely low mintages when compared to other modern issue US Mint gold coins.
This year, sales have become somewhat erratic due to the frequent suspensions and price increases. The US Mint has also become more inconsistent with the period of availability. Nearly all of the 2009 issues sold out earlier than expected, without reaching the maximum authorized mintages.
These convening factors create the possibility for an extremely low mintage coin to be created. There’s also the outside chance that the series could be canceled, if legislation is passed to eliminate the Presidential Dollar series.