The Mint promised us a number of surprises for its 225th-anniversary year. The first was the news that the 2017 cents minted in Philadelphia would, for the first time ever, have the P mintmark. Word got around slowly, starting with a post on a PCGS discussion board about a 2017-P penny that had turned up in pocket change.
Then, just last week, another such surprise came out, and it, too, was unannounced—a sort of Easter egg for the collecting public to discover. The annual Congratulations Set, which has contained a standard-issue, West Point–minted Proof silver Eagle since the sets were first released in 2012, will be released at noon tomorrow with a Proof ASE from the San Francisco Mint, complete with mintmark.
The news of this one traveled more quickly, first surfacing in comment threads and on message boards: Am I seeing this right? or I think the Mint made a typo. As more people went to the Mint’s website and scrutinized the photos, the cat was let out of the proverbial bag, and the story moved from the comment threads to the headlines. Soon afterward, a Mint press release announced that, not only would the Congratulations Set have an S-Mint Proof, the 2017 Limited Edition Silver Proof Set would, as well.
The exciting part, of course, is not so much the existence of the S-marked ASE but the matter of its potential mintage. The product limit for the Congratulations Set is 75,000; for the LESPS, it has traditionally been 50,000. There’s nothing to keep the Mint from raising the limit on the latter, or from adding the S-Mint Proofs to another product later in the year. But no one wants to get shut out when the 2017-S coin could end up being a low-mintage key date. The price point, $54.95, means that it’s no huge loss for the buyer if it doesn’t work out that way.
The price point is also a clue to the Mint’s timing with the coin. On Thursday, the Mint is releasing one of its highest-priced items of the year: the American Liberty 225th-anniversary gold coin. Even at spot value, the coin would be out of reach for casual collectors—and its final price will be several hundred dollars over spot. Why not release a budget-minded coin with a bit of excitement to it, around the same time as the big-ticket item? That gives everyone a chance to play.
Collectors and would-be flippers will be poised tomorrow at noon Eastern time for the set’s release. A few will get through right away; many more will have to refresh the screen several times to get in. With no household order limit in play, quite a number of people will buy multiples. And, of course, many people will be shut out, and will have to make a decision: pay a premium now—either on ebay or in buying a pricey LESPS—and risk wasting their money when the mintage runs into the high range? Or don’t buy one at all, and risk kicking themselves when the 2017-S ends up being a comparative rarity? ❑