Yesterday at 12 noon (Eastern time), the U.S. Mint released product number 17RF: the 2017 Congratulations Set, which contained an S-mintmarked (rather than the traditional W-mintmarked) American Eagle silver Proof. The gates clanged open and within 1/20 of a second, the orders were flying. I know for a fact that it was within 1/20 of a second, because that’s how quickly I clicked.
I’m neither an investor nor a proper collector, but ever since learning about the coin last week—from a Mint New Blog reader, naturally—I knew I’d try to get one. My interest was purely professional, of course—a quasi-scientific study, in the interest of the blog: What will our subject do under these harried conditions? The subject should be a newbie, and I definitely qualified. Despite editing numismatic books for a dozen years, I’ve never been tempted to dive into the hobby—in fact, the more I’ve learned about numismatics, the more I’ve realized how little I know, and the less inclined I’ve become to spend real money on coins.
To establish my bona fides, I’ll reveal the extent of my “collection,” which is housed in a 1930s jewelry box belonging to my late grandmother. These items include:
- a baggie of entertaining junk-box pieces (five for a dollar!)
- a 1-ounce Year of the Goat Australian bullion coin
- a copper Catherine the Great 5 kopeks that could, in a pinch, be used as a weapon
- an Ivan the Terrible kopek, purchased on the same day (my husband’s selection; interpret our choices as you will)
- several Russian coins from the lifetime of Anton Chekhov, on the grounds that he could have carried one of them in his sainted pocket
- a number of Whitman Expo tokens, flatties, wooden nickels, etc.
- a handful of worn Buffalo nickels from the Whitman vending machine
- a couple of Indian Head half eagles, Indian pennies, and similar items that are actually worth having (gifts from my father-in-law)
I did pony up for the Australian “Southern Sky” coins a few months ago, because I liked them and I have a lot of trust and respect for the person who called my attention to them. But that’s the extent of my experience in the hands-on collecting area of the field.
I knew I’d get distracted by other matters and would forget the event entirely if I didn’t take precautions, so I circled the date on my calendar; established a Mint account and signed up for a reminder email; programmed an alert into my phone; and surrounded my monitor with fluorescent sticky-notes. Thus reassured that the bases were covered, when Tuesday arrived I didn’t remember it until three minutes before the shotgun start.
Gah! I went to the site, logged in to my account, and proceeded to troubleshoot. Credit-card number? Check. Delivery address? Check. I’s dotted, T’s crossed? Check, and check. I pulled up the ordering screen and positioned my cursor over the blue “Remind Me” button. I glanced at the clock in my browser:
I thought about checking my email, then mentally popped myself on the knuckles with a ruler and resumed waiting.
I started to wonder how the order would go down. Would the blue “Remind Me” button become a red “Add to Bag” button at noon? Or would it be stuck on blue until I refreshed the browser, at which point it would be too late? I decided to refresh the browser now. I counted to ten—one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand—then refreshed it again. I did this until, in between refreshers, the screen blinked and the button turned red.
I clicked almost before my brain perceived the color change, then hit “Checkout” and the next screen popped up. Shipping choice, okay, got that, but why does it not think I’m logged in? What is happening?
I plowed through that hiccup and got to the payment screen—where the credit-card blanks were empty. No no no, I added that earlier and my credit card’s zipped back up in my bag! Ah, drop-down menu—select card—click the “Next” button . . .
Nothing. One-one-thousand, two-one-thousand.
What’s the deal? Why won’t you go? I squinted at the screen. All blanks full. I drummed my fingers on my desk. A-ha! A little red alert:
The Security Code is
And here my brain shorted out. A full one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand passed before my security code floated to the top of my mind like the message in the window of a Magic 8-Ball. I keyed in my code and completed my order. I looked at the clock as it clicked over to:
I printed my order confirmation. I indulged in one long, deep breath, then shifted over to the blog comments. Order times and numbers were stacking up; I wanted to play, too, so I added mine.
And then, at about 12:03, the readers were reporting in: it’s over. This product is currently unavailable. Learn more.
I said out loud, “Well that was fast.”
* * *
According to CoinWorld.com, the official sell-out time for the entire product limit of 75,000 was about two minutes. This morning the Mint’s communications office sent an email blast to editors; it consisted of one sentence: “Sales attrition from cancellations, returns and credit card declinations could result in a very limited quantity being made available for sale.” Which means that, if you got shut out, you should find an app that will alert you when the status changes. (I like Distill.) Even with an app, you’ll have to be fast—by the time you receive the alert and get online, they may be gone already.
Wait, why am I sharing my Distill tip? Before finishing this report, I checked my status on the Mint’s website, which said, “back ordered.” I completed my order before 12:01, ages before the set was sold out. The Mint sent me a confirmation. Yet my bank account hasn’t been pinged for it, and my status is “back ordered.”
If anyone needs me, I’ll be here at my desk, pretending I don’t really care, that it was all for the advancement of science, and that I didn’t really want one anyway. ❑