Beware MS70, MS69, PF70 ‘Perfect’ + ‘Certified’ Gold and Silver American Eagles and American Buffalos

1 ounce US Eagle and Buffalo bullion gold coins, obverse and reverse.

In 2006, the US Mint produced its first-ever .9999 fine gold coin in the form of the popular American Buffalo. The goal was to offer investors an American-made alternative to popular pure gold products like Canadian Maple Leafs, Austrian Philharmonics and gold bars. While numerous dealers (USAGOLD was one) simply offered Buffalos as an alternative bullion coin at a competitive rate, the novelty of the coins coupled with feverish demand helped spawn a whole new spinoff in the gold business – the independently graded contemporary bullion coin.

On the surface, there is nothing wrong with having one’s contemporary bullion coins graded and housed permanently in hard plastic containers. It is when these items are then promoted as exceptionally rare and desirable and priced at very high, and often unsustainable, premiums over their gold content that it becomes a problem. In reality, as you will read below, the graded item, in most cases, is not substantially different (except for the container) from the typical bullion coin purchased daily by thousands of investors around the world.

Our feeling was that after Buffalo hype wore off, this promotion, like many others that came before it, would fade away with waning interest. Yet here we stand many years later, rather than fading away, it has expanded and proliferated to include American Gold Eagles, American Silver Eagles, and U.S. Mint Commemoratives. One need only search MS70 or PF70 “Perfect” American Eagles to see just how many companies offer these fictional “numismatics.” (MS is an abbreviation for mint state and PF for proof)

At USAGOLD, we could not be more emphatic in our warning against paying significant premiums above the metal content for these products. This includes common contemporary items sold as “first-strike”, “early issue”, “first release”, Mint State 69, Mint State 70, Proof 69 and Proof 70, as graded by the independent grading services including the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) and the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC). Below we have published the mint’s official statement regarding “First Strike”/”First Release” designations and production quality controls. Please note the bold portion of the statement.


U.S. Mint Statement on “First-Strike” and “First-Release Designations

Coin dealers and grading services may use these terms in varying ways. Some base their use on the 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” or “first release” when considering purchasing coins with these designations.

The United States Mint has not designated any coins or products as “first strikes” or “first releases,” nor do we track the order in which we mint coins during their production. 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. 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.

United States Mint products are not individually numbered and we do not keep track of the order or date of minting of individual coins. Any dates on shipping boxes are strictly for quality control and accounting purposes at the United States Mint. The date on the box represents the date that the box was packed, verified 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 coins that 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 for tracking the order and for quality control.

U.S. Mint Consumer Alert

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The statement of ‘consistently high quality throughout the course of production’ is critical. At one of the top grading services, for example, 99.6% of the one-ounce gold American Eagle business strikes submitted for review graded either Mint State 69 or Mint State 70 — the two highest grades at the services. Fully 46% of submissions received a Mint State 70 grade, the ultimate rating. As for the silver American Eagle one-ounce coins, 99.5% of submissions (or nearly 5.7 million coins) made the top grades of Mint State 69 and Mint State 70, and a similar percentage of proof silver Eagles made the top grades of Proof 69 and Proof 70.

With the mint continually producing new coins at the same high quality that they always have, year after year, there is literally an ENDLESS supply of product. To be clear, you do not have to avoid buying these coins altogether. You just have to avoid paying an egregious dealer premium to do so. In fact, if you were so inclined as to desire ownership of graded bullion coins for future numismatic potential, we’d recommend simply purchasing bullion coins from us at our competitive premiums, and submit them to be graded (certified) on your own.


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