Recall Vote: Presidential Coin Set
By Alejandro J. Martinez
Presidents Day has a bitter side for coin
collectors this year, thanks to a decision by
the U.S. Mint late last year to discontinue
presidential $1 coin Historical Signature Sets
amid low sales.
Although the Mint will continue to produce the
proof coins for the $1 presidential-coin series
and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing will
continue to sell all the president's portraits,
collectors won't get it all in the fancy blue
folder that includes the presidents' signatures.
According to the Mint, the George Washington set
was the bestseller, with 16,443 sets sold. Then
sales started to decline. Sets for Presidents
Adams, Jefferson and Madison sold 9,284, 8,803
and 7,701 respectively. By the time the Mint got
to James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Andrew
Jackson and Martin Van Buren, sales were in the
That is when the item was voted out of office,
leaving the ninth and shortest-serving
president, William Henry Harrison, with no set.
"The decision to pare back the number of
products was based on customer feedback and the
sales figures for the various products," says ,
acting public-affairs director for the Mint.
The Mint decided to take an "up and down"
inventory of all its products and determined it
was best to trim 121 coin products at the end of
2008. Those 200-something products that remain
account for more than 95% of the Mint's products
sold during October 2007 and September 2008,
said the U.S. Mint.
Collectors and Mint customers alike will debate
whether the low sales for the latter sets in the
series was a fair representation of interest --
given the turmoil in the credit markets and the
peak holiday-related shopping period of the
Each set in the series -- for as long as it
lasted -- featured a folder that contained a
proof version of a presidential dollar coin,
along with the particular president's sketch
from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and
his official signature, courtesy of the White
House Historical Association, for $19.95 apiece.
"The signatures are not available to collectors
at this time," says Mike Melton, administrator
of the White House Historical Association.
The 2008 presidential sets are now in the
process of being "detrashed." That's Mint-speak
for destroyed, so the few sets that were sold
are at least relatively rare.
A similar early-end disappointment happened in
2002 when the Mint partnered with Hallmark Cards
Inc. to produce State Quarter Christmas
ornaments. Some coin experts say it's another
example of the Mint issuing products that aren't
for serious collectors anyway.
The Historical Signature Sets "were not designed
for the coin-collecting community, says , senior
partner at Ganz & Hollinger in New York and a
former president of the American Numismatic
Association. "They were designed for the
"The U.S. government is the world's largest coin
dealer," says , author of "The Coin Collector's
Survival Manual." He says the coins and products
"are purely speculative in terms of investment
potential. The Mint makes the Mint from these
Still, the decision has left coin fans folding
uncompleted collections, which will never get
all the presidents. For collectors who had
started buying the sets and are disappointed
with the passing of the series, "it's more of an
emotional loss than a financial one," Mr.
Diehard coin collectors say the U.S. Mint must
do its research better and hone its marketing
"Collectors really don't want that wide of a
spectrum," says , of Chicago, a coin collector
for 34 years who bought a few of the sets. "For
the amount of money it cost, it didn't strike me
as very high quality," she says.
So how does the U.S. Mint respond to honoring
only eight presidents?
The Mint's Mr. Hernandez says that through
various other products, as well as educational
initiatives, "the U.S. Mint continues to pay
tribute to all the presidents."
Write to Alejandro J. Martinez at