The U.S. Mint’s numismatic sales figures for the week ending April 23, 2017, are probably giving the Mint’s accountants a giant collective headache—but they do make for an interesting discussion of buyer behavior. Much of the excitement (for lack of a better word) seems to be an ongoing ripple effect that started with the April 4 release of the 2017 Congratulations Set. Mint News Blog readers will remember it well, with its surprise S-mintmarked American Eagle silver Proof coin. The Mint’s entire supply sold out in under two minutes, leaving a great many customers frustrated and angry.
Looking at the Mint’s weekly sales data for 2017 to date shows that retail buying patterns got interesting the week before the 2017 Congratulations Set was released. Consumers had been purchasing roughly 10 to 25 of the 2016 Congratulations Sets (16RF) per week since the first report of 2017. The week ending April 2, however, sales jumped to 462. Were the Mint’s customers worried that the 2016 sets would no longer be available after April 4? Or were they being trigger-happy as the news spread about the special ASE coin in the 2017 set?
April 4 came and went, and the 2017 Congratulations Sets, as noted, sold out in under two minutes. The Mint issued a statement that a few more of the sets would be made available as returns, order cancelations, and credit-card cancelations were processed.
The Mint skipped its next numismatic sales report, which would have covered the week ending April 9. When the April 16 report was released, we learned that a net 3,130 of the 2016 Congrats Sets sold during those two weeks. It seemed pretty clear this time that excited customers were hastily buying the 2016 sets, thinking they were getting a few of the 2017’s that could still be available.
On the current report (week ending April 23), the 2016 Congratulations Sets are newly listed as “unavailable.” No doubt the returns will be rolling in on the April 30 report, or perhaps the May 7.
This week’s report is interesting for other reasons as well, one of those being the volume of downward adjustments:
- 2016 American Eagle 1-oz. silver Proof coins (16EA), -2,522
- 2016 American Eagle 1-oz. silver Uncirculated coins (16EG), -2,699
- 2017 American Eagle 1-oz. silver Proof coins (17EA), -18,820
Were these returns related to erroneous purchases during the Congratulations frenzy? Or did it just happen that the Mint chose this report to process adjustments related to ASEs? In any case, the Mint removed a total of 24,041 unit sales from the books. Given that only 18,205 items were sold, the net unit sales figure for the week was actually a negative number: -5,836. It would take a bit of digging to find the last time this happened; certainly, it’s the first time this year.
The Mint’s top-10 sellers the past week were also at a record low for 2017. For the first time this year, only one item in the entire numismatic catalog sold 1,000 or more units: the 2017 U.S. Mint Proof Set (17RG), released March 29, which sold 6,547 units for the period.
To compare the current sales report with those earlier in the year:
|Week Ending||No. Products with +1k Units Sold||No. of Units Sold|
|In Top 10||Overall|
|* Report covers two weeks’ worth of sales.|
The question now is whether this week’s sales figures are at a normal low point in the cycle, or much of the Mint’s customer base really is exasperated enough to give up on Mint products. To be fair, there were no new releases at all last week, and the previous week, only one item—the 2017 ATB Uncirculated Set (17AA), released April 10—debuted. The period ending March 19 had no new products that week, but it benefited from the ongoing sales of the 2017 Boys Town commemoratives from the week prior.
The Mint’s next release, the moderately priced ATB Frederick Douglass 5-ounce silver Uncirculated coin (17AK), rolls out May 2, but sales for the series haven’t been strong for a while. The current net figure for the previous 5-ounce coin, Effigy Mounds, is exactly 10 units more than it was on its first week’s sales report (March 12), when it came in at 14,363. The 1-ounce Proof gold Buffalo coin (17EL) debuts May 11, but last year’s version got off to a relatively slow start, and sales puttered on at a steady but unremarkable couple hundred a week for most of 2016.
Whatever the cause of the current malaise, it seems unlikely to lift for at least the next two or three weeks. ❑