Monday Morning Brief for January 24, 2022: Memo to the Mint
President Biden has nominated Ventris C. Gibson, Deputy Director of the U.S. Mint and currently Acting Director of the Mint, to serve as the Mint’s 40th Director for a full five-year term. If confirmed by the Senate, she will join a long line of directors dating back to David Rittenhouse, who took office in 1792.
Acting Director Gibson faces several challenges: two heavily used denominations, the cent and 5 cent coins, which cost more to produce and distribute than their face value; Meeting the needs of customers, which include the Federal Reserve, dealers and collectors; rising precious metal prices; maintaining operations during a pandemic; reopening of public Mint tours when it becomes relatively safe; and much more.
Your biggest challenge, from the point of view of the typical coin world It will be for the reader to regain their trust and to convince them, through targeted actions, that they are on their side and to show them that the Mint’s collectors are as valued by the Mint’s managers as are the Presidency’s dealers.
I have been a coin collector for almost 60 years, starting buying coins from the Mint around 1970 and have continued to do so coin world Contributor as a writer and editor for 45 years and counting. I can say without a doubt that Mint collector customers are more angry at Mint actions and practices than I have ever seen them.
Part of the irritation stems from the belief that mint officials see collectible dollars as a source of revenue that must be continually tapped, and that the way to do so is by offering customers an ever-expanding selection of numismatic products. When I first became a Mint customer, the Mint’s product line was small – the annual proof and uncirculated coin sets and the list of Mint medals. A few years later came the Eisenhower dollars, offered in various collectible forms, and then the bicentennial coins and medals. Like many Mint customers at the time, I bought just about everything the Mint offered and was probably still paying less than $100 a year.
The revival of the commemorative coin program in 1982 and the introduction of the American Eagle gold and silver bullion coins in 1986, both mandated by Congress, led to the production of new coinage products. So did the growing number of bronze medals which copied Congressional gold medal designs, again under Congressional authority.
Like many collectors, I bought some of the early commemoratives and American Eagles, but soon became unwilling to continue buying everything the mint offered.
The introduction of the State Quarters program in the 1990s further expanded the Mint’s product line. Here the mint started issuing the same coins in new sets. Annual Proof and Brilliant Uncirculated coin sets were supplemented by specific sets such as State Quarters Proof sets and then Presidential Dollars Proof sets.
The mint then began experimenting with refinements beyond the standard Proof and Circulation quality finishes. Coins such as the annual American Eagle silver dollar, originally offered in only two forms, proof and bar, became available in three, four or more forms. The coin was minted by The Mint at various mints, further expanding the product line. Additional lines of bullion in gold, silver, palladium, and platinum were approved by Congress, almost all of which were issued in multiple forms.
In recent years, mints have begun to use congressional-approved powers to issue gold coins that do not fall into the bullion or commemorative categories, neither of which require specific congressional approval. Ditto for silver medals. It has also started putting Privy Marks on coins, further increasing the number of products available.
Today, the Mint offers dozens of new products each year, more than most collectors can collectively afford.
I hope that Acting Director Gibson will take a good look at the Mint’s product line and start reducing it. Two annual sets, the Birth Set and the Happy Birthday Set, were discontinued starting this year. This is a good start.
Now she and her team must deal with the silver medal and the special gold programs; Just because they can release products in both lines each year doesn’t mean they should release them. The same goes for the almost endless supply of coins in multiple designs from multiple mints; Just stop.
As Acting Director Gibson begins to downsize the Mint’s product line, she will earn the gratitude of many Mint customers.
Then she has to deal with the question of who has priority with the coin: dealer customers or collector customers. But that’s a topic for a future column.
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