The United States Mint has continued to sell 2011-dated America the Beautiful Five Ounce Silver Bullion Coins to its network of authorized purchasers into the 2012 calendar year. While it is typical for the Mint to sell prior year dated bullion coins into the following year for other series, the authorizing legislation for the five ounce silver coins seemed to disallow it.
Public Law 110-456 authorized the America the Beautiful Quarters Program, which will feature a series of rotating reverse designs on the quarter dollar representing a national park or site in each state, territory, and the District of Columbia. The same law also provides for the issuance of five ounce .999 fine silver bullion coins featuring duplicate designs of the quarters. The law indicates that these bullion coins will be issued in quantities that the Secretary of the Treasury determines are appropriate.
With regards to the period of availability, the law states:
Bullion coins minted under paragraph (1)—
‘‘(A) shall become available for sale no sooner than the first day of the calendar year in which the circulating quarter dollar of which such bullion coin is a duplicate is issued; and
‘‘(B) may only be available for sale during the year in which such circulating quarter dollar is issued.
The 2011 America the Beautiful Quarters were launched into circulation on January 24, 2011 (Gettysburg), April 4, 2011 (Glacier), June 13, 2011 (Olympic), August 29, 2011 (Vicksburg), and November 14, 2011 (Chickasaw).
Based on these release dates and in accordance with (A), each of the 2011-dated America the Beautiful Silver Bullion Coins could be released no sooner than January 1, 2011. The bullion coins actually went on sale to authorized purchasers on April 25, 2011 (Gettysburg and Glacier), May 23, 2011 (Olympic), June 20, 2011 (Vicksburg), and July 18, 2011 (Chickasaw).
The US Mint has interpreted (B) “may only be available for sale during the year in which such circulating quarter dollar is issued” to mean that the coins can be available for sale during any year in which the corresponding quarter dollar is issued.
Michael White of the United States Mint Office of Public Affairs provided this statement from the legal department:
Regarding the sale of 2011-dated ATB Silver Bullion coins in 2012, 31 U.S.C. § 5112(d)(1) in part states, “coins have an inscription of the year of minting or issuance.” This means an ATBQ coin that is minted in, say, 2010, can be issued in 2011 (and, indeed, they were issued in 2011). So when 31 U.S.C. § 5112(u)(2)(B) states, “may only be available for sale during the year in which such circulating quarter dollar is issued,” it means that the 2010 5-ounce silver bullion ATBQ coins can also be issued in 2011 (because 2011 is a “year in which such circulating quarter dollar [i.e., the 2010 ATBQ coin] is issued.”
Even if this is a valid interpretation, it is arguable that this was not truly the intention of the authorizing legislation. The United States Mint generally does have the authority to issue coins across multiple years, unless there is a specific requirement otherwise. The 2010-dated America the Beautiful Quarters have actually continued to be issued into 2012 within various numismatic products sold to collectors. The “issuance” of coins in this fashion can continue for many years into the future, making the sales limitation on bullion coins, as the US Mint is interpreting it, essentially meaningless.
The intention of the law was more likely to limit sales of the bullion coins to the initial year of issue for the corresponding quarter. Under this interpretation, the 2010-dated ATB Quarters regardless of year minted were initially issued in 2010 and the bullion coins could only be available for sale during the year 2010. In fact, the legislation states “may only be available for sale during the year in which the circulating quarter dollar is issued.” It does not say the years (plural) or provide any other indication that the limitation on sales should be so limitless.
The sales limitation specified under the law did not come into play for the release of the 2010-dated America the Beautiful Silver Bullion Coins. The US Mint was only able to produce 33,000 coins for each of the five designs, which were all made available to authorized purchasers in early December 2010. All 165,000 of the coins were sold to authorized purchasers by December 23, 2010.
For the 2011-dated coins, the US Mint had recorded sales of 397,700 coins by the end of the 2011 calendar year. During 2012, the US Mint has sold an additional 5,700 of the 2011-dated coins based on the latest available sales figures.
The US Mint has confirmed plans to offer both bullion and numismatic versions of the 2012 America the Beautiful Five Ounce Silver Coins in reduced quantities. Information on the releases dates is not yet known.