In all the attention paid to manufactured rarities such as the Peace dollars and 2021 Morgan, the United States Mint’s commemorative coins are often overlooked. According to sales figures, some pieces may have a lower mintage than the ones that drive collectors crazy.
The combined sales of the Proof and Uncirculated 2021 Silver Dollars in honor of teacher-astronaut Christa McCauley currently amount to less than 58,000 pieces, with a maximum mintage limit at 350,000 coins. This is unacceptable, especially when compared with sales of the 2019 silver dollars honoring Apollo 11 (more that 283,000 pieces), and the Uncirculated version’s total which is higher than the total for the 2021 coin.
The National Law Enforcement Memorial’s 2021 program has sports sales that are lower than the McAuliffe coins (36,490 total silver dollars, with a fraction of the 6,450 gold coin sales).
Strongly-selling commemorative coin programs tend to feature popular themes, while weaker sales have more interesting themes. The 2021 coin themes are not popular, at least according to sales.
We have been critical of Congress’s selection process regarding commemorative coin programs. Many seem driven more by Congress members’ desire to raise money for a personal project than historical significance. For example, new legislation seeks commemorative coins for 1865 Sultana catastrophe. The what catastrophe? Many of you may be asking this question. One reader said, “Who really cares?” It was 156 centuries ago. Anyone who really cares about this is long, dead.” While commemorative coins can draw attention to our history, some events are so obscure that recalling them on coins commemorative of coins would be little more than a fundraising effort for a small local institution.
Collectors may be able to blame the Mint for making poor decisions on pieces like American Liberty gold coins, limited edition American Eagles, and special coins such as the resurrected Morgan and Peace dollar. However, Congress should be the target of criticism regarding the annual commemorative coins. The Mint does not have any say in deciding the themes.
We have been arguing for years that reform is needed at the Mint. We also need to change the way Congress chooses commemorative coin themes. Next week, we will be back to that topic.