First Strike Coins
Independent professional coin grading services, originally in the USA, have issued controversial 'first strike' certificates. We discuss the merits.
We think it's all a marketing gimmick, to put it politely, but we could think of a more accurate and concise description.
According to the US Mint:
The United States Mint has received inquiries from consumers regarding use of the term "first strike." The term has appeared in connection with the advertising and grading of 2005 and 2006 silver, gold, and platinum proof and bullion American Eagle Coins, and the new 2006 24-karat proof and bullion American Buffalo Gold Coins. Currently, there is no widely-accepted and standardized numismatic industry definition of "first strike." Coin dealers and grading services may use this term in varying ways. Some base its use on dates appearing on United States Mint product packaging or packing slips, or on the dates of product releases or ceremonial coin strike events. Consumers should carefully review the following information along with each dealer's or grading service's definition of "first strike" when considering a purchase of coins with this designation.
The United States Mint has not designated any 2005 or 2006 American Eagle Coins or 2006 American Buffalo Coins as "first strikes," nor do we track the order in which we mint such coins during their production. The United States Mint held a launch ceremony for the 2006 American Buffalo Gold Coin on June 20, 2006, two days before its release on June 22, at which two proof coins and two uncirculated coins were ceremonially struck. However, those coins were not individually identified and were put in regular inventory after the ceremony. The United States Mint did not hold any striking ceremonies for the 2005 or 2006 American Eagle Coins.
The United States Mint strives to produce coins of consistently high quality throughout the course of production. Our strict quality controls assure that coins of this caliber are produced from each die set throughout its useful life. Our manufacturing facilities use a die set as long as the quality of resulting coins meets United States Mint standards, and then replace the dies, continually changing sets throughout the production process. For bullion American Eagle and American Buffalo Coins, the United States Mint makes an average of about 6,000 coins from one die set. For proof versions of the 2006 American Buffalo Coins, the yield is an average of about 1,500 coins per die set. For proof versions of the American Eagle Coins, the yield is an average of about 300-500 coins per die set. This means that coins may be minted from new die sets at any point and at multiple times while production of a coin is ongoing, not just the first day or at the beginning of production. To put this in context, in 2005 the United States Mint produced approximately 356,500 one-ounce gold, 8,891,000 silver, and 6,300 one-ounce platinum American Eagle Bullion Coins.
American Eagle and American Buffalo Coins are not individually numbered and the United States Mint does not keep track of the order or date of minting of individual bullion or proof coins. The United States Mint begins production several weeks before these coins are scheduled to be released. By the release dates for 2005 and 2006 bullion coins, the United States Mint had already minted approximately 50% of the projected sales numbers for these coins. Any dates on shipping boxes containing uncirculated bullion coins sent to Authorized Purchasers are strictly for quality control and accounting purposes at the United States Mint at West Point. The date on the box represents the date that the box was packed, verified as 500 ounces and sealed, and the date of packaging does not necessarily correlate with the date of manufacture. The date on shipping labels and packing slips for proof coins, which are sent directly to United States Mint customers from our fulfillment center, is the date the item was packed and shipped by the fulfillment center. The other numbers on the shipping label and packing slip are used to track the order and for quality control.
First Strike = Bullshit
If you read the US Mint's comments about first strike US coins, it is hard to escape the conclusion that all the stuff about "first strike" coins is bullshit. We could be polite and call it marketing hype, but this may lend it too much respectability.
The US Mint's statement only served to confirm what we already believed. The first time we became aware of "first strike" coins, was, from memory, with the issue of year 2000 "bullion" (non-proof) sovereigns. A number of dealers seemed to be promoting these as being superior, and the price being asked, and being paid, for them was much higher than normal or expected. At the time, we were pointing out to anybody who would listen that it would be better to wait for the far superior proof sovereigns to be issued. The ordinary "bullion" version was issued in early January, and the proof was not issued until April. In the intervening months, we fielded questions from many potential buyers, all wanting "first strike" sovereigns, and we tried to convey the same advice to them all. It's our guess that most of these people ignored our advice, and went ahead and paid inflated prices for the ordinary bullion issue, but in a plastic slab labelled by a grading company as "first strike". In recent years we have bought in a few of these "first issue" coins, and have never paid more for them than we would have done for any other uncirculated example. The proof coins, when they were issued, were of course far superior. Those who took our advice would have been delighted.
Grading Companies = Willing Conspirators?
We remain perplexed and puzzled why any professional grading service, where reputation is important, would join in or help to promote what we believe is hype at best, and a scam at worst, by issuing "first strike" certification. Possibly they think that consumers are so stupid that they will not notice or care, or perhaps that they will have such short term memories. Either way, we think it demonstrates a lack of professional and sacrifice of integrity for short term gain, to indulge in marketing, assisting, or conspiring to assist in the marketing of "first strike" coins.
Chard & First Strike Coins
We ourselves have sold first strike coins, but we refused to market them as "first strikes".
In 2007, we were offered some "slabbed" 2007 US gold buffalos. These cost us $10 each over our normal cost price, plus a small amount for the extra airmail shipping cost. Our asking price for them was £10 each over our normal selling price.
It was only when we received them, that we noticed the "first strike" designation, and the PCGS logo. As PCGS are rated as one of the two most consistent and respected grading services, we wonder at them stooping to facilitate the dodgy practice, and wonder even more what tricks the cowboys of the industry would pull.
No buffaloshit here!
The Royal Mint Succumb to the Temptation
Sometime after we created this page, we noticed a "2011 FIRST STRIKE 5pc British Gold Sovereign SET PF70" gold set for sale on eBay, and had to groan.
We salute and congratulate the US Mint for posting good consumer and collector information and guidelines on its website.
Sadly our own British Royal Mint does not take the same moral high ground, and indeed appears to have succumbed to the dubious marketing practice of joining in the "First Strike" business. While it is justifiable, if it is in fact correct, we believe it is wrong to condone the "first strike" marketing of coins, especially bearing in mind that most of the time it does not mean what it says.
In any case, we suspect that the Royal Mint do not allocate the first 300 of each coin to each of its first 300 sets in strict order, if at all.
Once again, we note that the Royal Mint have allowed marketing to take precedence over integrity.
Dear Prefered Collector,
Congratulations! This is the first time in The Royal Mint's history that they have...
This is the first time in history that The Royal Mint has designated sovereigns as First Strikes and this is the 2nd coin set ever to be certified as first strike by The Mint. The 5 piece set comes with a Certificate of Authenticity from the British Royal Mint. 5 Sovereigns certified by pcgs as first strike pr70 coins. There are a total of 300 matched graded sets in a Wooden presentation case with the certificate of authenticity and numbered.(2) The first ten sets being numbered in order of mintage by The Royal Mint. The legal tender coins are the £5, £2, £1, half and quarter Sovereigns. Struck in 22k gold.
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