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What Have Extra Sets Gained?
February 25, 2009

Yesterday's blog focused my attention on just one Mint product, the gold Buffalo one-ounce bullion coin. Naturally, being a collector, I can't help but broaden out and look at other Mint products with the same question: Do collectors really need them?

Asking this just a couple of months after the Mint made a significant start in cutting back on its hundreds of products might seem odd, but I can't help it.

Did the Mint go far enough in its pruning?

Take the average, ordinary, run-of-the-mill proof set. Mintages of these used to run to 3 or 4 million year in and year out.

Last year, the Mint produced 1.4 million clad proof sets. That's truly a sorry figure for the last year of the state quarters and it makes me wonder if there are indeed 140 million collectors of state quarters out there as is claimed. Why don't they show up in purchases of larger numbers of regular proof sets?

Even if you add the roughly 700,000 silver proof sets that are sold at a far higher price, the 700,000 five-quarter clad set and the 400,000 or so five-quarter silver sets and you get only 3.2 million.

That number is suspiciously like the basic demand for the standard proof set.

What has the Mint gained by scattering demand essentially for the same number of coins across four different sets?

Do the varying prices more than make up for the costs of the different packaging and the differing supply and production lines to put four sets together?

Since I am not privy to individual product profit margins, I assume that the fact that these coin sets were not pruned means that the Mint considers them profitable enough to continue them.

In the old days, anybody who wanted to buy proof examples of just a few of the coins in a proof set had to buy the whole set. For those collectors, these more specialized sets are more convenient.

Yet haven't even these collectors lost out in what used to be an annual rite of passage for most collectors when just the one set became available?

Perhaps I am too nostalgic today to think rationally.

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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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