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When the Mint Price is Right
July 19, 2011

George Cuhaj of the Standard Catalog staff came back yesterday from the annual convention of the Royal Canadian Numismatic Association.

He brought with him a proof silver dollar marking the centennial of the rare Canadian 1911 silver dollar of which just three examples are known. It is a beautiful coin. The Royal Canadian Mint does beautiful work.

Care to guess the price?


That stopped me in my tracks. The equivalent would be if the 2011 proof silver American Eagle coin had a $120 price tag instead of the $59.95 it actually sports.

American collectors are lucky. If you look at our hobby from outside our borders from this show or others you see just how lucky we are.

Pricing for that Canadian silver dollar is not unusual for a world coin issue. In fact, it is standard. For many years the price of collectible world gold coins started at double bullion value. Silver coin prices started at an even greater multiple.

If the U.S. Mint would price its precious metal coins that way, to be sure, there would be an initial outcry. The Mint would lose some customers.

However, it probably would not lose as many customers as you might think. American collectors are tenacious. If it came to be a choice between not buying something they have always collected and paying a higher price, most would swallow hard and make the purchase while probably firing off a letter of protest to Numismatic News.

For the Mint, the result would be an enormous surge in its profit margin. It also would not have to make as many coins.

Any businessman would spot this opportunity and run with it. He would know that there is a great difference between avoiding losses and profit maximization.

We collectors are fortunate that such an eventuality will not happen. The Mint is still primarily governed by the rules of politics where a dissatisfied customer is treated like a dissatisfied voter. Business is not always so responsive in its pursuit of maintaining its profit margins.

For the U.S. coin hobby as presently organized, we should hope that never changes.

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About the Author
David C. Harper has been a coin collector since 1963. He joined the Krause Publications editorial staff in 1978 and is currently editor of Numismatic News and World Coin News. He also edits two books annually, North American Coins & Prices and Coin Digest. He is the author of the Class of '63 column that runs each week in Numismatic News. His first bylined numismatic article appeared in the June 1971 issue of Coins Magazine and his various Krause Publications assignments included a stint as editor of the magazine 1980-1983. Harper received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1977. He had a double major of journalism and economics.

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