Last week, I was invited to virtually attend the Mint Roundtable Discussion of Key Initiatives, at 10:00 a.m. Wednesday, August 25. The stated purpose of this roundtable discussion in the invitation e-mail was to “keep the dialogue open, share information and obtain feedback regarding what you’re hearing from your readership.” I prepared a list of questions based on reader comments that frequently appear here on Coin Update and Mint News Blog. The discussion that followed was very fast-paced. Several other prominent figures in the numismatic press asked the same questions of the Mint that many of you here on the blogs inquire about, and, consequently, they ended up answering some of them for us without the need for me to bring all of them up. This personally made me proud of the keyed-in audience that we have cultivated here.
I will be breaking down this virtual roundtable into two parts. In Part I, I am simply sharing the preface and opening commentary senior Mint officials gave, briefly covering a few of the issues Mint customers have brought up. In Part II, I will be covering some key points and questions that Mint senior leaders and attendees made during the Q&A section, respectively.
Mint senior leaders attending the roundtable included Chief Financial Officer Kristie McNally, Associate Director of Sales and Marketing Matt Holben, Deputy Director for Sales and Marketing Kirk Gillis, and Mint Director David Ryder. The discussion was initiated by Matt Holben, who thanked the attendees for participating in the video call and stated that “We hear the collectors, we understand their concerns, and we’re doing our best to enhance the user experience as much as we can.” After briefly handing introductions over to Director Ryder, the discussion returned to Holben, who described the COVID-19 pandemic as a “Black Swan event.” Despite this development, he assured us that the United States Mint (in addition to other national mints worldwide) has been “experiencing rapid growth,” both in numismatic and bullion products. He then continued by explaining some of the hurdles that the Mint has been struggling with.
Concerning some of the more recent difficulties the Mint has had fulfilling customer orders, Holben partially attributed some of these cases to simple laws of supply and demand. However, he emphasized that the majority of the impact was made by “scriptwriting and bots that try to circumvent the household order limit or to expedite how fast an individual or company can get through the transaction.” Holben stated that the Mint is making an effort to strike a balance between wholesale and direct-to-consumer channels, in addition to taking advantage of new technology to offset botting and scriptwriting. “We recognize that some of this commercial activity and some of the flipping was directly to benefit key commercial organizations,” stated Holben. He said that one of the ways that they plan on addressing this (in addition to better technological solutions) is to allocate up to 10% of product for participating partners in the Authorized Bulk Purchase Program and that they would “have to pay a premium” of up to five percent “depending on the product.” Holben concluded by encouraging collectors to make use of the United States Mint Product Enrollment Program to stay abreast of any developments on particular products.
Holben acknowledged that the Mint’s website slowing down was true but he emphasized the upsides to some of the more successful recent releases. “The American Eagle silver [numismatic]… We sold more American Eagle silvers in 2021 than we did in 2019, and we did so in 30 minutes or less,” said Holben. Director Ryder lauded the Mint for remaining open and fully operational for the duration of the pandemic while also maintaining a safe environment. Holben concluded his opening remarks and expressed his desire that the Mint would be able to improve communications with both the press and the collecting community going forward.
The Q&A segment will be covered in Part II. Stay tuned!