New U.S. Mint Buffalo Coins Packaging a Nightmare
When the U.S. Mint announced it was adding a .9999 gold bullion coin to its line of gold coins, it looked like a golden opportunity for the Mint to capture a big chunk of 24-karat gold coin market. When legislation was passed mandating that the new coin bear James Earle Fraser’s designs that graced the legendary Buffalo/Indian Head nickels from 1913 through 1938, the new coin’s future looked even brighter.
However, on release of the new Buffalo gold coin, the Mint’s golden opportunity has turned into a nightmare at the retail level. While the coin itself is quite striking, having a matte finish and completely capturing the Fraser designs, the packaging makes the coins a nightmare.
Although the bulk of the blame can be laid on Congress for attempting to micro-manage production and distribution of the coins, the Mint should accept its share of the blame for the choice of packaging, having not considered, the retail aspects of the packaging.
Congress mandated that the coins be individually encapsulated to protect them from damage, apparently to avoid problems that have risen with 1-oz Canadian Maple Leafs. Further, Congress mandated that the Mint have the coins ready for distribution by the end of June. To meet the deadline, the Mint had to choose a method of packaging that was readily available and that would accommodate anticipated large volume sales.
The Mint chose a semi-rigid Mylar packaging, five coins horizontally with four coins down, making twenty coins to a sheet. With wide spacing between the coins, a sheet of Buffalos measures twelve inches by sixteen inches.
The packaging causes several problems.
Because of the rigidity of the Mylar, a sheet cannot be folded into a tall bundle. Orders for less than twenty coins have to cut out of the sheets for the coins to be packed compactly, which is desired-and expected-for gold bullion coins.
Undoubtedly, the semi-rigid packaging for the Buffalos was meant to provide durable protection. However, the Mylar is so rigid that an original sheet of twenty Buffaloes cannot be conveniently stored. A sheet of twenty can be rolled like a magazine and then rubber-banded, but then storage would take a lot of space. Whereas the smallest of safe deposit boxes will hold hundreds of 1-oz Gold Eagles because they come in compact tubes, perhaps only sixty or so Gold Buffalos would fill a small safe deposit box.
Another problem that has surfaced: The coins readily come out of their protective sheets when handled. This means the coins then have to be transferred to a tube or to individual plastic sleeves, which are used so often for single coin purchases. Or, the Mylar can be mended with Scotch tape, hardly an attractive solution.