The United States Mint has posted details of the upcoming 2012 San Fransisco American Silver Eagle Two Coin Proof Set on a preliminary product page.
As covered in a previous post, the product will contain one 2012-S Proof Silver Eagle and one 2012-S Reverse Proof Silver Eagle. At this time, it seems that both of these coins will be unique to the set.
The Mint will be offering the sets for sale during a period of only four weeks from June 7, 2012 to July 5, 2012. During this time, there will be no household limits and no maximum mintage. The mintage of the coins will be determined based on orders received during the period. Pricing for the set has not yet been announced.
The US Mint has obviously chosen their offering strategy in direct response to the situation which had occurred for the 25th Anniversary Silver Eagle Sets. These sets had a mintage limit of 100,000, household ordering limit of five, and sold out in less than one day.
Although some collectors are not thrilled about the criteria established by the US Mint for the current offering, things could have been worse. When the US mint has reacted to an unexpected sell out by increasing the mintage or lowering the ordering limits, they have tended to overshoot the mark.
After the sell outs of the 20th Anniversary Gold and Silver Eagle Sets, the US Mint offered the 10th Anniversary Platinum Eagle Sets. The sets contained one-half ounce proof and reverse proof coins with the product limit set at a whopping 30,000 sets. (Up until that point, the maximum number of one-half ounce proof platinum eagles sold by the US Mint during any one year was 15,431.) Although the US Mint produced sets to the entire maximum mintage, sales never reached that level. After a few suspensions related to precious metals prices, sales officially closed on December 31, 2008 with final sales reaching 19,583 sets. The two Platinum Eagles included in the set now represent the two highest mintage one-half ounce proof coins of the entire series.
After sell outs of the first two issues of the First Spouse Gold Coin series, the US Mint dropped the ordering limit to just one per household. Even after collector interest had fallen dramatically and opening orders dwindled, the Mint continued to impose an initial ordering limit of one per household until the middle of 2008. Imposing such a strict ordering limit long after it was necessary may have served to further discourage collector interest in the series.
If the US Mint had tried to establish a higher mintage limit for the 2012 San Francisco Silver Eagle Set, I think they would have come up with a ridiculously high number while at the same time imposing a one per household limit. This would have resulted in an overproduced product which would linger in the product catalog for a long time to come.
There is some precedent for offering a special coin or set with an unlimited mintage for a specified time. These situations have actually worked out well for collectors.
Most recently, the US Mint offered the 2009 Ultra High Relief Double Eagle Gold Coin for almost a full year. Although there were ordering limits imposed at the start of the offering, the limits were eventually increased, and then completely removed. Late in the year, the US Mint announced a specific date for the conclusion of sales. The last reported sales were 115,178, which seemed high at the time, but has ultimately come to be recognized as limited compared to the worldwide collector demand for the coin.
Looking at some past US Mint promotional materials, it seems that the 1998 Kennedy Collector’s Set, which contained a matte proof 1998-S Kennedy Half Dollar, was available for ordering for only six weeks. Collectors were enthusiastic about the offering following the success of the 1994-P and 1997-P matte proof Jefferson Nickels included in previous commemorative coin sets. Orders for the Kennedy Set reached about 62,000 with the specified period. Once again, this product went on to secondary market success and continues to hold a strong premium.