America the Beautiful Five Ounce Silver Coins

After initially being released in a frenzied atmosphere which prompted articles in mainstream publications and unprecedented price and distribution requirements, the America the Beautiful Five Ounce Silver Coins have experienced a swift change in collector sentiment.

Bullion Coin Program

The program underwent an extremely rocky start as the United States Mint had difficulty achieving the unusual requirements specified by Congress. Most troublesome were the requirements for a 3 inch diameter, which made the coins unusually thin, and the incused edge lettering, which initially caused the coins to crumple when applied.

The US Mint purchased a special coining press from Germany at a cost of $2.2 million, which was installed at the Philadelphia Mint on March 1, 2010. An extended period of testing followed, with the first full scale production beginning more than six months later on September 21, 2010. The extreme delay and reported production problems seemed to increase collector anticipation for the coins.

On December 1, 2010, the Mint finally announced that the bullion coins would be available on December 6, 2010, with only 33,000 units for each of the designs available. This was about one-fifth of the level that the US Mint had initially intended to produce. Additionally, the Mint announced that numismatic versions would be available in the following year, with 27,000 units for each design available. The unexpectedly low mintage levels only served to increase collector interest in the coins.

The release of the bullion coins did not go as planned. The authorizing legislation specifically requires the US Mint to distribute the bullion coins through their authorized purchaser network, which consists of eleven primary distributors who can purchase bullion based on the market price of the metal plus a mark up. In the case of the America the Beautiful Silver Bullion Coins, the price was based on the market price of silver plus $9.75 per coin. One of the distributors began offering the coins for sale to the public for significantly higher prices. Collectors complained, prompting the Mint to halt the program to determine an appropriate course of action.

The program was relaunched on December 10, 2010, and authorized purchasers were required to enforce a limit of one coin for each design per household and not charge any more than 10% above their acquisition cost. Most of the authorized purchasers agreed to the terms and purchased their allocations, although many were extremely slow to sell their coins to the public. The constraint on the supply combined with the now frenzied interest led to high prices for the coins which did reach the market.

In the following year, the first two designs were made available to authorized purchasers in bullion format on April 25, 2011, with an initial mintage of 126,700 indicated. In less than a month, authorized purchasers had ordered the entire quantity for both designs. Sales began to slow by the fourth release of the year, as apparently interest in the oversized bullion coins had dissipated. The most recent release featuring Chickasaw National Recreation Area has recorded sales of 24,700 to authorized purchasers through the current date. This is lower than the 33,000 mintage of last year’s releases that had caused a frenzy to ensue.

America the Beautiful Five Ounce Silver Bullion Coins

2010 Hot Springs 33,000
2010 Yellowstone 33,000
2010 Yosemite 33,000
2010 Grand Canyon 33,000
2010 Mount Hood 33,000
2011 Gettysburg 126,700
2011 Glacier 126,700
2011 Olympic 83,300
2011 Vicksburg 32,500
2011 Chickasaw 24,700

sales figures through December 5, 2011

(By law the US Mint may only sell the bullion releases of the series during the year of issue for the corresponding quarter. However, there’s no telling how many coins authorized purchasers may choose to order before the close of the year.)

Numismatic Coin Program

The numismatic versions of the America the Beautiful Five Ounce Silver Coins issued by the United States Mint experienced a similar cycle of frenzied interest, followed by a sharp decline. These numismatic coins carry an uncirculated finish created through a vapor blasting technique. The coins also carry the “P” mint mark.

The US Mint completed the entire production of 27,000 units for each of the five 2010 designs before the close of the calendar year, with plans to offer the coins during the first quarter of 2011. Initially, it was not specified whether the coins would be sold as a set or offered individually. The Mint opted for the latter option, with the Hot Springs coin put on sale April 28, 2011.

For the Hot Springs coin, the US Mint imposed an ordering limit of only one per household. Ahead of the release, some major dealers were offering instant premiums for collectors who would order the coins for immediate resale. Collector interest was so strong that the initial rush of orders caused the Mint’s website to crash and remain offline for 45 minutes. By the end of the day, orders had been received for 19,000 coins. A full sell out took about 15 days to occur.

The following coin featuring Yellowstone National Park experienced a similar pattern of sales, with a strong opening and complete sell out after 15 days. Sales would slow for the following releases with sell outs occurring after 30 days and then 65 days for the Yosemite and Grand Canyon coins. The following release featuring Mount Hood National Park still remains available for sale.

The first of the 2011-dated releases featuring Gettysburg National Park was released on September 22, 2011. For this and all subsequent releases to date, the Mint increased the maximum mintage to 35,000 and increased the initial ordering limit to five per household.

The most recent coin featuring Olympic National Park went on sale November 29, 2011. Based on the latest available US Mint sales report published today, sales were 8,662 in the opening period, representing the slowest start to date.

America the Beautiful Five Ounce Silver Uncirculated Coins

2010-P Hot Springs 27,000
2010-P Yellowstone 27,000
2010-P Yosemite 27,000
2010-P Grand Canyon 26,019
2010-P Mount Hood 25,781
2011-P Gettysburg 15,986
2011-P Glacier 13,236
2011-P Olympic 8,662

sales figures through December 5, 2011

(By law, the US Mint cannot strike these numismatic coins after the date inscribed. There is no restriction on how long coins that have already been struck may continue to be offered for sale.)

In a future post, I will have some thoughts on the program, its future, and the implications of swift change in collector interest.

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Comments

  1. simon says

    IMHO this is an interesting format for bullion collectors. I have sets of each issue and absolutely no regrets. I love to look at these units.

  2. Michael says

    I like the series as well. I was mainly trying to illustrate the broad change in perception of the series that has taken place in only a year. Before 33,000 was a shockingly low figure, now few are paying attention to potentially lower figures. Also, I wanted to provide a brief history of the series before offering some thoughts in a coming post.

  3. Gerald R. Lampton says

    I, for one, think the 5 oz. bullion coins are absolutely hideous, having bought the first five bullion coins and the first numismatic coin. The designs are singularly uninspiring, and they look like silver hockey pucks.

    I ended up taking the whole lot of them down to my local coin dealer, who would only pay me the spot price of silver, less five percent, based on their weight.

  4. ROS says

    I think the bullion story is more interesting. In theory the Mint can sell the P versions until they sell out. So you would have assume the published Mintage
    will be what is in the market long term However the bullion versions can only be sold in the designated year which means that sales as of Dec 31st represent
    the final mintage for bullion versions. So then what? Lets say Chickasaw
    end up below 27,000 which means there would be fewer Chickasaw bullion than any other issue bullion or circulated. Would this drive the Chickasaw higher in the marketplace long term?

    The lowest bullion sold at the end of the year will represent the maximum amount of complete sets in the market long term!

  5. Tom says

    I must say the collector editions blasted finish looks way way better than the cheap shiny chrome plated looking finish of the bullion ones. The only one I bought was the collector P Mt Hood, and the detail of the texture and shape of the mountain really comes out at you, way better effect than looking at the design on a smaller quarter.

  6. Salacious Crumb says

    All I have to say is thank goodness I bought my 6 sets of 2010 bullion for the price the AP’s were forced to sell at. I would be furious if I was a johnny come lately and scoop up the graded sets that were selling for an absolute fortune at the time. They are sitting quietly in my safety deposit box and will be for the next few decades. It’ll be interesting to see how they play out in the future.

    Funny how bullion ones minted in the future probably will be lower than 33k.

  7. Matt L. Detectre says

    I could see these unc coins peter out like the spouse coins to a few thousand a year and eventually congress could cancel the program but thats probably several yrs down the road. I would have rather had the mint version in a smaller proof coin in 3 oz. size or less. I’m tapped out on silver anyway so I’m gonna take a pass on these big boys.

  8. Sam says

    I have the Hot Springs and the Gettysburgh mint version — I may go for a Vicksburg. I was a bit surprised, I thought the civil war themes would draw interest from more than the usual collectors.

  9. David says

    My prediction for the future: Sales are slow right now people are not buying and if so, are buying other, such as the 2011 Eagle Annivsary Sets. What will happen is the price of silver will eventually climb above $50/oz again. The bullion versions might only be worth spot in the future; however, the numismatic versions, will again, gain demand/interest, especially if the Congress/Mint stops producing them (I suspect they will). At that time they will be highly desirable.

  10. simon says

    Well it’s an American coin series based on the National Parks, and having slogged through a few of them I’m in ALL THE WAY. ( e.g. I hiked / slogged across the Grand Canyon in one day with a group ; I rode bicycle in a group from the Grand Canyon to Albuquerque over a week ; I worked as an intern at a civil engineering company who re-routed a water channel through Chaco Canyon NM to preserve some new ruins ; I also took my parents on another trip to see Chaco and we were caught in a flash flood, and had to be towed in the early hours of the morning through mud by the Navajo police ) I Like This Series !

  11. SmallPotatos says

    I am in for the first 5 P’s, but will probably limit my next coins to a more limited grouping like Civil War battlefields, and maybe a few others. I like the AtB series overall, and am thrilled when i get one in my change (which is quite rare), but for 2011 i am tapped out. Maybe if there are some 2011’s left over next year, i can pick some of them up!

  12. lawschoolkid says

    I’m a newbie; just wanted to say that the ATB series got me hooked…and I’m in it to win it. They are all-around great coins…plus, you can make things look smaller by placing it next to things with the Washington-side up!

    With respect to all this talk of Congress / the Mint ending this series or the FS series…are there any instances of that happening in the past? And, wouldn’t that just make the failed series more valuable?

    Keep up the good work Michael; I learn something new in each post!

    So, for what it’s worth, the new kid likes this series (much to his wife’s dismay)…

  13. Zaz says

    It’s a good series, with quality designs that are shown off well on the 3-inch surface. As I’ve said elsewhere, once the flippers were gone, it would become a niche series well out of the reach of most collectors, similar to the gold Spouses and the platinum AE proof, minimally this will be a $10,000+ & up set in either finish at the end in 2021, and I suspect more than a handful of people are aiming for both. 8,662 is actually near the 10K figure I suspected for Olympic’s first week of sales, and that’s encouraging as that would be the base level of collector interest. It will be interesting the see how long it takes for Gettysburg and Glacier to sell out and base future mintages based on how those have done after six months of sales. Could be lower than 35,000… As for the bullion mintages, I bet HSN and the its ilk are paying attention and will scoop up 10K each of Vicksburg and Chickasaw, other than that unlikely scenario, really liking those mintages, but 126,500 is way, way too many coins that hasn’t really found its niche in the bullion market yet.

  14. says

    I’d been expecting the poor start to Olympic’s sales. While there was a brief surge in Gettysburg and Glacier sales, that seems to have been caused by either piggybacking off the 25th anniversary sets or else fear of a rise in silver prices.

    Speaking as a collector I suppose I’m glad this is happening, as it means eventually we’re going to have rare low mintage issues which could command significant premiums in the future (Chickasaw bullion and Olympic AtB seem like a real “beginning” of this trend). Speaking from another point of view, the gradual decline into first spouse territory is depressing and indicates (to me) that the program is basically a failure. The AtB 5 oz series, both numismatic and bullion, is probably my favorite coin series, and to see it decline into obscurity like this is rather depressing.

    Michael, I will be looking forward to your post and your thoughts on the series as a whole, especially on whether there’s any hope of recovery.

  15. Zaz says

    This is unprecedented territory for the US Mint or indeed any world government to fund and issue 5oz silver rounds with a nominal face value with fairly generous mintages. The silver AE was spurred in part by the surplus of silver and the burgeoning demand for Chinese silver pandas, same with the gold AE, created to compete with the K-Rand, so there was a ready and willing market for these products. There have been 5oz. and larger coins of other world mints, but they have always been of very limited mintages or specialty mintages of proofs. The other matter is a fairly prosaic one: aside from one ill fitting Air-Tite holder type, there is a dearth of mass produced storage options for these coins. Could you rent a SDB large enough to hold all 56 of these? How would you store and display them at home?

  16. says

    I have appreciated the mints 5 oz offerings from day one. I was able to buy 6 sets from the “authorized purchasers” I have one set that I could of sold for around $3000 at it’s peak, but only bring about $1500 now. (3 DMPL, 2 PL)

    Bottom line, I like these big 5 oz coins…but mostly the bullion versions.

  17. Drew says

    I bought the bullion set and the first collector version from the mint just to have. I love them.

  18. Shutter says

    I personally like the series. But it’s shortcomings show what’s wrong with Congress micromanaging the mint, instead of providing general guidelines, and focusing on their own job instead.
    First as had been pointed above, insistence on 3″ diameter forced the mint to overcome technical difficulties that didn’t need to be there. Without them, there would have been an orderly roll-out in 2010 and continuation in 2011. Second, they should have different nominal value. $5, This would make sense. 1oz=$1, 5oz=$5. That way they would have had an excuse to design a different obverse. Surely we have a president or a founder who hasn’t been sufficiently honored. Third, 5 coins a year is too much. A more leisurely 4 coins a year would have been better. Also, 56 divides into 4. It does not divide into 5. Fourth, do away with limits. If Joe Bob’s House o’Coins wants to buy 20,000 units, let them. Coins aren’t like tickets to Superbowl. If you sell out, you can make more. The mint makes a profit on every coin they sell. Every extra dollar in profit for the mint, is one dollar less that you and I owe to China.

  19. Shutter says

    One other thing, don’t keep the schedule a secret. If the mint has already finished minting numismatic Vicksburg and Chickasaw, as they must have, announce when they will be available. Most of us don’t have unlimited funds and would appreciate the ability to plan spending money on coins.

  20. stephen m. says

    I like the 5ozers and enjoying seeing how they will unfold or playout. The persons buying what they like and enjoy are the winners in the ATB five ounce program.

  21. Fosnock says

    I have all the bullion coins, and plan on getting all the rest of the bullion coins as they are released. They are cheaper (per ounce) than ASEs, and they may have an upside based on mintage.

  22. MarkInFla says

    I love these. The bullion ones do have a somewhat chintzy looking finish, and the numismatics are kind of high priced over melt, but they are still really neat, show the designs well and have a nice hefty feel. They are more fun bullion collecting than silver eagles that only change the date. Buying a set of these each year is more fun than a roll of eagles. (Why don’t they have the same finish as eagles???)

    Of all the things I collected over my lifetime, it seems like bullion is the only thing that went way up in value. Other coins, stamps, other collectibles, mostly stayed flat or went down. These have the benefit of being nice coins and giving the value of bullion. And with endless paper money printing we will *probably* see bullion go up in the long run.

  23. Wylson says

    It’s cool that there are significant numbers of people that prefer the bullion over the P pucks or visa versa. This does generate interest, at least amoung collectors. Also, the people that love or hate them seem to enjoy debating them also. Still one of the more interesting offerings lately.

  24. Clair Hardesty says

    The thing that I have a hard time understanding is that the reason for the coins in the first place must have been pressure from the PM lobby to create a coin larger than the SAE, presumably with the intent of achieving a lower per ounce markup, either from the mint or in the secondary market (which includes the mint markup). Either that simply hasn’t happened, possibly because it was a pipe dream to begin with, or the PM lobby didn’t understand the desires of it’s own marketplace (maybe they didn’t want a bigger coin, even if it was cheaper). The numismatic versions are simply a standard spin off of a bullion product and will probably die if the bullion version does. Probably the only thing that can save the coins long term is some combination of an increase in the markup for SAE bullion or a reduction of the markup for the AtB (not likely, it is already low). I think that there may have been a basic misunderstanding that a larger coin would be significantly cheaper per ounce to produce, something that did not pan out. If congress would allow the mint to increase the markup on the SAE to a point where the AtBs become the most attractive way to purchase bullion the program has a chance, otherwise it is doomed. I love the coins and I hope a way to continue them is found. I wish they would have been only 2.5 inches, that would have brought them to market sooner and may have made for better acceptance but I still think the bottom line is the price that APs and their major customers are paying for AtBs vs. SAEs and until that face off significantly favors the AtB, the SAe will dominate.

  25. RichardS says

    The article mentions that bullion coins were sold to dealers and “primary distributors” at a discount price who then sold them to collectors and the public for a profit. Are dealers able to buy other coins from the mint such as the First Spouse gold coin series at a lower price than collectors or are we assured that EVERYONE pays the prices listed on the Mint website?

  26. Larry says

    I bought the first 5 P coins, but will not buy anymore. I don’t like the finish. With the exception of the Mt. Hood coin, the coins are just ugly. The Mt. Hood coin is stunning, the way the water almost seems to glimmer. I think the mint would have had a real winner if these coins were reverse proof. Then you would have something special.
    The designs that looked so good on the quarter size coins just don’t look good at 3 inches. These coins really needed a “wow” factor and the just don’t have it.

  27. houTX says

    Michael or anyone, How long can they make the numismatic P version? Can they make and sell 2011 well into 2012? Just asking because I ordered the Olympic over a month ago and it is still in backorder status…. there are only 3 more weeks to go in 2011 and two more unreleased coins. Thanks

  28. houTX says

    actual order sate was 11/29 but obviously they have not created them if it still has not shipped on 12/7. Thanks

  29. Shutter says

    obviously they have not created them if it still has not shipped on 12/7.
    Not so obvious. They minted all of 2010-P coins last year, but didn’t start taking orders for the first one until the end of April, and the last one is still up for sale. After the coins have been minted in Philadelphia, they have to be inspected for flaws, assembled into packages, and transported to Indianopolis before being packed into shipping boxes and turning them over to UPS for shipping to customers. All that takes time, and they have other numismatic products to deal with, not to mention regular circulation coins. Considering that their product is not exactly time-sensitive, they aren’t in a rush. Also, those are government workers, their sense of urgency has been surgically removed.

  30. William says

    I would like to see someone make a walnut display cabnit to hold all these. I plan on purchasing all of them, should be interesting to see how many full sets are collected if they are all minted as the law requires. I wish we could subscribe to make sure I get one or each. I also refuse to have them graded.

  31. TONYRIGATONY says

    The only problem I have with the WHOLE A.T.B. program is there trying to dublicate the State Quarter program ,by using all 50 states.I think they shoud go by the Beauty of the parks. Everyone knows that 85% of the parks visited are out WEST,North and South, HA.& ALASKA. Utah alone has 3 or 4,.same with CA.. The PARKS people know instead of trying to please every state !

  32. GatorTrekE says

    Clair, it has been my impression the U.S. Mint started this program to prevent the private mints from making the large replica “coins” based on the U.S. Mint designs such as the state quarters, etc… as they had been doing. For whatever reason, these large size replicas angered the U.S. Mint. Since the large size replicas couldn’t be confused for actual legitimate coinage, the U.S. Mint couldn’t legally prevent the private mints from producing the replicas. So, the way to resolve the problem (was it really a problem?) was to produce a similar product and then by Federal law, the private mints couldn’t do the same. I could be wrong but this has been my assumption as to the reason for the large size AtB program.

  33. Hidalgo says

    Micahel,

    The two gold $5 commemorative coins will soon no longer be available. I know you previously recommended buying the uncirculated versions of the Army and Medal of Honor coins.

    Do you still feel the same way? Do you think the proofs of both coins are potentially good buys as well? And what do you think about the 2011 W uncirculated gold eagle? Do you think that coin is a better deal than either of the two commemorated gold coins?

  34. Robert says: says

    I think the Mint should not have placed a value of 25 cents on the America the Beautiful Five Ounce Silver Coins. The Mint is selling the coins for $229.00.

    I think this is a beautiful series the problem is why produce bullion coins! and then have collector coins? These coins would have made a beautiful half dollar and been sold cheaper. A great back for the Kennedy half.

  35. Forty5 says

    <> Anyone tempted at the Platinum Proof for $1800? I do like the design,but it is hard to sell compared to the other eagles.

    I continue to believe the ATB is the best bet on silver.

  36. DCDave says

    Good question Hidalgo. I’d like to hear Michael’s thoughts also. With PMs tanking, I’m not sure I’d spend much more on them. I was fortunate to get my 25th An. silver sets ordered after 6pm and think they will appreciate in value even if PMs continue to decline. I also like the ATB way better than the state quarters and collect one of both the numismatic and bullion versions. I agree that it is silly to give California only one NP and have DC/ Del/ RI and other states with no parks nicer than a #2 or #3 CA park a quarter of their own, but oh well. Overall way too many PM pricey stuff by the Mint this year.

  37. oldfolkie says

    I love them and am in it until the end. It is a shame that this series got off to such a horrendous start. I’m looking forward to next year when the releases slow down and my bank account can recover.

  38. Mercury says

    In answer to the December 6, 2011 at 6:31 pm post which propose that if the Chickasaw ends up below 27,000, which means there would be fewer Chickasaw bullion than any other issue bullion or circulated. Would this drive the Chickasaw higher in the marketplace long term? The best answer I can give you would be; not necessarily. The reason being is that numbers alone is not what draws a higher marketplace value. There is a very fine line when stating that lesser mint production equals increase value especially if we want to realize increases in our own lifetime. The key is that you first of all have to have something the people want. Generally sell outs are a good indicator that your on the right track, but are no guarantee as well, but still a better bet. The fact that there is so little interest in the Chickasaw bullion as well as some other of the other America the Beautiful Five Ounce Silver Bullion Coins my be an indicator that the future prospect of the increased value of these weaker desired coin may be minimal. So my advice is, if you are not taken back simply by the design of the coin itself, then it would be in your best interest not to buy it. In cases of low mintages such as this, you will most likely not be seeing any financial investment benefit anytime soon if ever. But here again, if we all knew absolutely for a certainty how collectors will eventually respond in this type of coin market, then we’d all be millionaire. Simply hope for the best, but expect nothing. Love coins for the joy of collecting and you’ll never go wrong.

  39. Anonymous collector says

    One of the most difficult things about this series has been the unpredictable schedules of distribution. Between 2/1 and 4/2, the 5 coin 2010 bullion sets were sold to interested people by the authorized purchasers. In a short 3 months, all 5 of the 2010-P’s were issued by the mint (4/28, 5/17, 6/9, 6/29, and 7/28) and later in the year but not much later (2 short months), 3 of the 2011-P’s were issued in just over 2 months (9/22, 10/25 and 11/29).

    In other words, there were 5 bullion and 5 vapor blasted ATB 5 oz issued or made available between 2/1 and 6/29, and thats only for 2010. Add on the three each 2011-P and five 2011 bullion to this and I am beyond words other than ‘wow’.

    How does one expect a collector to keep up with this type of erratic behavior?

    Final comment – its always nice to run in when the crowd runs out. It pays off in the long run.

  40. Ron says

    I agree with some of the post here about which ones to collect. I started buying and flipping so I could afford the ones I wanted, the civil war and native american. So far it has worked out fine and with the price of silver dropping it should get cheaper to collect but not flip.

    Thanks Michael for the only blogs that I actually read and look forward to what is happening with all the U S Mint issues. Keep up the good work.

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