Coin collector feels stuck on money-go-round
Distribution, pricing of state quarters
By G. Jeffrey Aaron
an avid coin collector for the past
half-century, Corning's Tom Mayo has learned
that uncirculated coins hold the most value.
He's also learning that it's getting harder to
acquire the newer, shiny coins for his
There was a time when Mayo could fill out his
collection with the new coins he obtained from
area banks -- the method he used to complete his
50 State Quarters Program collection. The
program, launched 10 years ago at a rate of five
coins per year, is a special series of quarters
-- one for each state of the Union. Mayo has put
together complete sets for his five
grandchildren and himself.
"These are investments," Mayo said. "Some of the
state quarters are worth 20 times the face value
because there aren't any left."
This year, the U.S. Mint began striking the
quarters that would make up the six-coin D.C.
and U.S. territories collectors' set.
To his disappointment, Mayo discovered the banks
aren't carrying the new quarters. He and other
collectors have to order the coins from the mint
or from clearing houses -- and they aren't
The U.S. Mint charges $37.90, including shipping
costs, for a two-roll set of the new D.C. and
U.S. territory quarters. The face value of the
two rolls is $20.
The Littleton Coin Co. in New Hampshire, a major
supplier of collectible coins, is advertising a
10-coin set of each new territory quarter --
five from the Denver mint and five from the
Philadelphia mint -- for $16.95, including
shipping. The face value: $2.50.
To say Mayo is angered and confused by the
mark-ups is an understatement. He's taken his
concerns to federal lawmakers, the Federal
Reserve Bank of New York and financial
institutions within a 35-mile radius of Corning.
"I talked to the people I thought could help,
and they were appalled. But after a couple of
calls, I stopped hearing from them," he said.
Coins struck by the U.S. Mint are sent to
Federal Reserve banks across the country, which
then distribute them to banks in their regions.
That's the way it worked with the statehood
quarters, and as those rolled uncirculated coins
were released over the span of a decade, Mayo
paid face value at local banks.
But those banks have now told him they won't be
getting any of the D.C. and U.S. territories
quarters. And the reason he's heard most often
is that the armored car companies that deliver
cash and coins to banks charge banks extra if
their coin orders include the special quarters.
However, a spokesman for Loomis Fargo & Co. in
Houston said the company does not charge banks
extra for delivering the commemorative quarters.
A spokesperson for Brink's did not return calls
"Someone needs to ask the question 'why,' but no
one will admit these coins are being
manufactured for profit," Mayo said.
U.S. Mint spokeswoman Carolyn Fields said, "We
are not hustling coins. The difference is the
uncirculated coins are packaged in special
wrappers for collectors, and that's why the
coins through us are priced a little bit more."
Michael White, also from the U.S. Mint, said
banks don't have the coins because a limited
number were minted and banks' coin orders are
lagging because the weakened economy has slowed
their demand for coins in general.
"The banks have higher inventories, so they
don't order as many quarters from the Federal
Reserve banks and you have fewer new quarters
going out there," he said.
Mayo finds it hard to accept those explanations,
but he has resorted to buying the special
quarters from online dealers.
"What is the difference between the 50 state
quarter program and the U.S. territories
program?" he asked. "For 10 years, I could get
the state quarters at the bank, no problem. But
all that has changed.
"In my opinion, the coins are minted in small
quantities and the mint can make more money
selling them to dealers."