A few weeks ago I started to receive email advertisements from several coin companies offering to sell 2012 coins. One note was found in my Junk folder from the end of October. I began to wonder if we are selling coins are cars?

Those of us living in the United States cannot engage in any media without seeing one advertisement for next year’s newly redesigned, sleeker, faster, shiny, new four-wheeled wonder from Detroit, Japan, Korea, or Germany with better handling, more fuel efficient, and technology that will do everything but brew your coffee but will tell you where you can find a cup. Anyone old enough can remember when the next model year would come out in the fall of the previous year—and in those days, you could order a car to your specification for delivery in November or December.

Although it started a few years ago, it seems that many of the world’s mints are not only beginning to advertise their next year’s offerings, but are striking them, too. I have seen advertisements from the Royal Australian Mint, Perth Mint, Royal Mint, the Royal Canadian Mint, the People’s Bank of China, and Tuvalu. These 2012 coins, mostly commemorative issues, are gilded, enameled, and painted on designs with crystals, diamonds, and even rub-and-sniff coins—new, shiny, and better than last year’s versions.

“Order now! Operators are standing by!”

Has the numismatic market become too gimmicky that these mints and central banks are resorting to car selling techniques?

I have bought my share of gimmicky collectibles, but that was at a time when these were novel. Now, it seems that many of these world mints have come up with various gimmicks in order to sell more non-circulated legal tender coins. It seems as if the metal and design are not enough any more.

Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on your view, this could not happen in the United States. The U.S. Mint is the most regulated of all the world mints. Every coin and medal manufactured by the U.S. Mint must be allowed by a law passed by congress. Unless congress authorizes the use of color, crystals, gilded, or other non-engraved design elements, they will not appear on a U.S. coin. Even though the U.S. Mint is allowed to strike coins early, the law prevents them from issuing the coins dated in the future.

I am not going to ask if the gimmicks are good for the hobby because these new issues have the potential to introduce coins to new collectors. But how far will it go? Does the hobby really need to create contrived collectibles to generate interest?

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