Around mid-month, the Perth Mint announced on their blog the upcoming offering of a 2012 Silver Proof High Relief Four Coin Set, which would contain the high relief one ounce silver proof Kangaroo, Kookaburra, Koala, and Year of the Dragon Coins with 1,000 sets available worldwide.
Each of the four coins within the new set had previously been released separately with an indicated mintage of 20,000 for the Kangaroo, 10,000 for the Koala, 10,000 for the Kookaburra, and 7,500 for the Year of the Dragon. The Koala and Kookaburra were both under exclusive distribution within the USA. The Year of the Dragon coin had already sold out of the indicated 7,500 mintage.
The Perth Mint’s blog post immediately drew criticism within the comments since it would effectively raise the total mintage for each of the coins.
The Perth Mint provided this response:
The Mint is passionate about the interests of its collectors. Without collectors there would be no numismatic program!
But we are also a commercial operation, created by an Act of Parliament to return a profit to the State of Western Australia by adding value to Australian precious metals for export.
Our job is to balance profitable business opportunities with the interests of collectors worldwide in the best way we can.
Sometimes this involves re-packaging a coin to create an altogether new product with an exclusive mintage. We’ve done this over many years, so there’s nothing new here.
It is not our intention to gouge loyal collectors. Such offerings are generally created for overseas coin distributors who initiate the project and formally commit to the vast majority of the mintage.
That’s a valid business opportunity for the Mint.
Collectors have little to fear from it. We believe the packaging and format variations we insist on make them separate, unique products.
Even if you don’t accept that, an increase of 1,000 from such a low mintage base does not alter the fact that they remain extremely rare.
In both examples discussed in this thread, we’re reasonably confident of achieving sell out – meaning secondary market prices won’t be unduly affected either.
Hopefully this provides a better understanding of our decisions. Many thanks to all those who have contributed to this post and please rest assured your interests will always be vital to us.
More recently, the Perth Mint devoted an entire post to explaining what they mean by “mintages.” You can read the full post here.
The key point of the post was the difference between “total vs. certificate mintages.” The Australian Treasury grants a certain maximum mintage level. The Perth Mint decides how many coins to release within a particular packaging option. Therefore, what the Perth Mint has typically referred to as the “limited mintage” for an offering, would more accurately be referred to as the “product packaging limit.”
They provide the specific example of the 2012 High Relief Year of the Dragon coins, for which Treasury granted approval to strike up to 30,000 coins. The Perth Mint decided to release 7,500 coins in the individual packaging option released earlier this year. They will release another 1,000 coins within the soon to be released Four Coin Set.
The Perth Mint has indicated that they will change the wording of the mintage limit on future certificates to include the words “in this packaging.”
I asked the following questions in the comments section:
Is the maximum number of collectable coins the Perth Mint is permitted to strike for a given coin publicly available information? If so, where can it be found? The only information that I ever see is apparently the maximum for the given packaging option.
Does the authorization for a maximum mintage ever expire? For example, in 2021 could the Perth Mint legally strike the remaining 21,500 of the 2012 High Relief Dragons that were authorized?
The Perth Mint provided the following responses:
No, the maximum number of collectable coins we are approved to make by the Australian Treasury in Canberra is not made public.
Authorization for a maximum mintage does not expire. The passing of time does not affect the original Australian Treasury decision.
Yes, in 2021 we could legally strike the remaining number of HR Dragon coins within the approved mintage. Would we do it? No, we manage availability of the coins responsibly with collector interests in mind.
I have previously discussed the Perth Mint’s open-ended ability to continue to produce coins that have not met their maximum mintage. The fact that there is an unknown Treasury granted maximum mintage that might be even higher certainly adds another aspect to the situation.
The Perth Mint does seem to be cognizant of collector impressions and the market values for their more popular coins. Based on their responses, they seem to be trying to manage their somewhat broad authority in such a way as to balance pursuing profitable opportunities and serving collectors. Nonetheless, it is disheartening that whenever there is a popular product that sells out quickly, there is the looming possibility that it may be re-issued in another packaging option.
From the perspective of US-based collectors, we expect that the maximum mintage refers to the total number of coins that may be minted and issued across all packaging options. Collectors from other parts of the world may have less strict expectations. The Perth Mint pointed out that they have done multiple packaging options for other coins many times in the past. It also seems that some world mint products derive their premiums based solely on the packaging- an example would be some of the Libertad products as well as some Perth Mint products.
The Perth Mint mentioned their pursuit of profitable business opportunities. I would mention that some opportunities can provide a short term benefit, but long term detriment. While they may attain an extra 1,000 units of sales from the upcoming Four Coin Sets, their future high relief silver proof coins may generate less enthusiasm and experience slower sales if collectors start to become disenchanted by the prospect of “re-packaging.”
The fact that Perth Mint collector coins can legally be minted forever (as long as the Treasury granted maximum mintage is not met) also serves as a long term detriment. For bullion coins with unlimited mintages, the Perth Mint has generally indicated a date at which production will be closed, leading to a definitive final mintage. Some similar concept should be applied to collector coins as well.
Lastly, I started purchasing coins for my collection from the Perth Mint because I found artistry and innovation that went above and beyond what other mints were offering. Unlike some of my US Mint purchases, I did not spend a lot of time analyzing secondary market prospects and mintages, but simply wanted to add beautiful coins to my collection. Of course secondary market prices have their importance and I would rather see them go up than down, but some coins would still be my favorites regardless.
Readers can provide their own thoughts in the comments.
The Perth Mint is scheduled to release a large number of new product releases on October 31, 2012 at 12:01 PM ET (time for collectors in the United States). These products include colored editions of the Year of the Snake Gold and Silver Coins, a 2 oz. silver proof collection for the Australian Lunar Series II, the 2012 Silver Proof High Relief Four Coin Set, and new releases for the Dragons of Legend series, Birds of Australia series, and Four Seasons series.
Once available, find these products in the new releases section. I will have a full post with more details after the official release time.