December 2, 2022

2009 Ultra High Relief Gold Double Eagles: US Mint Can’t Deliver Their Own Hype

Back in December, I examined the upcoming 2009 Ultra High Relief Double Eagle Gold Coin offering from the US Mint. I expressed the opinion that the US Mint would have problems handing demand for the new coin. Several months later, the US Mint has had problems with virtually every aspect of the product, from the inability to obtain gold blanks to the botched production of paperback books.

The Ultra High Relief Double Eagle recreates the original design for the 1907 Gold Double Eagle created by Augustus Saint Gaudens. Each coin contains one ounce of 24 karat gold and is struck on a specialized blank, which is 50% thicker than the blanks used for most one ounce gold bullion coins.

The US Mint began publicly touting the coin as early as March 2008, calling it a “recreated masterpiece” and the “nation’s most beautiful coin.” US Mint Director Edmund Moy has called it “one of the best coins ever made in the world throughout all of history” and likened owning the coin to owning a Monet.

Perhaps the current environment of limited gold blank supply was not the best time for the high profile launch of a flashy gold prestige coin.

Pricing and Availability

Sales of the Ultra High Relief Gold Coins began on January 22, 2009. The US Mint tried to head off the anticipated high demand by setting an ordering limit of only one coin per household. This ordering limit remains in place. Coins were initially priced at $1,189 per coin. This price has been raised three times in the subsequent months to its current level of $1,339 per coin. When sales began, the US Mint indicated that orders for the coin might take six to nine months to complete.

Many people attempted to get around the order limitation by enlisting the help of friends and family with unique household addresses. Coin dealers were also forced to try to find a way to circumvent the ordering limit. They offered a gauranteed premium to anyone willing to order the coins for them. Some customers felt that the price was set too high, but complaints were not widespread. Many were dismayed about the prospect of waiting six to nine months for their orders.

Limited Gold Blank Supply

Several days after the coins went on sale, Edmund Moy revealed that so far the US Mint had only able to obtain enough blanks to produce 29,000 coins. Customers had ordered approximately this number of coins during the first day of sales. To date more than 48,000 coins have been ordered.

The implication is that anyone who had ordered on the first day might receive their coins soon, but customers who placed their orders after the first day, might be in for a long wait. There has been no indication of whether the US Mint has been able to procure additional blanks beyond the first reported batch of 29,000.

Shipping Delays and Miscommunications

During the weeks that followed, US Mint customers began receiving a series of emails which provided a confusing array of estimated shipping dates. Some customers received four or five emails which included a different shipping date each time. These shipping dates often conflicted with the estimated shipping dates available in customer account screens. Some of the earlier dates came and went with no coins shipped.

Amidst the wave of emails, the first coin actually received in hand was reported February 9, 2009 at online social networking site Coin Network. After this first report, many assumed widespread shipping of the first 29,000 coins would follow. As the days passed, it became apparent that only a small number of coins had actually shipped. The rest were inexplicably delayed.

Shipping Problems and Website Security Issues

Following the arrival of the first coin, US Mint customers began to report shipping issues for other US Mint orders, as well as security issues that were impacting Ultra High Relief Double Eagle coin orders. The US Mint’s shipping contractor had reportedly been leaving packages filled with thousands of dollars of gold coins on customer doorsteps without signature or any other confirmation of delivery. The US Mint’s website had an easily exploited security flaw which caused some customers to have their orders canceled without authorization.

The US Mint disabled some of the functions of their website to prevent the further unauthorized cancellation of orders. They never broadly informed customers of the underlying problems or the potential resulting delays.

Production Problems for the Companion Book

The final and most recent problem in the Ultra High Relief saga relates to the Companion Book, which the US Mint produced to accompany the gold coin. Apparently, a production problem caused the book covers to warp or curl.

Today, the US Mint sent an email to all customers announcing that they would resume shipping of the Ultra High Relief coins, and the companion books would be shipped separately. The email did not mention the shipping problems, website security problems, possible gold blank limitations, and overlooked the fact that customers had never been informed of a shipping delay in the first place. Besides the series auto generated emails with inaccurate shipping dates, this was the first email sent to customers to explain why they haven’t received their coins.

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Comments

  1. Interesting stuff. I ordered mine on Feb. 21. When I went to check the ship date on the Mint website, I discovered that the page had been disabled and had a notice to call the Mint to get the info. I called them yesterday and was informed my coin will ship on April 4. We’ll see, I guess.

    Advice to other callers: call early in the morning, Washington time. Once the call queue gets so long, you will get a recording telling you to hang up and call again later.

  2. Interesting update, thanks. But here’s another twist to this issue. The customers who ordered within the 1st hour on 1/22/09 when these went on sale have not received anything. Order numbers higher than my own have received their order already. I’ve sent Mr.Love, president of PBGS, an email and have not received a reply. I’ve called PB customer advocate number, left a voicemail and have not received any respone. PBGS is not complying with the US Mint’s policy of FIFO, they seem to be doing LIFO. Any assistance would be great!

    Thanks

  3. Brian Rothhammer says

    I ordered on the first day of sales, attempted to order via website while simultaneously attempting by phone. At 10:05 PDT (1:05 EDT) I succeeded. As of today, February 27, no coin and standard generic non answers from U.S. Mint.

  4. Thanks for the info regarding non-FIFO shipping. This is yet another issue.

    There is an examination of that issue here:

    http://mintnewsblog.blogspot.com/2009/02/ultra-high-relief-double-eagles-not.html

  5. Admin, thank you so much for getting this in public view. I’ve completed the survey. An update, some of the 1st people to order are starting to receive their coin or an email that their coin is shipping. My order was placed 38 minutes after these went on sale on 1/22 and I have yet to receive the coin or an email? Very confusing to say the least.

    I spent 45 minutes on the phone last night with the customer service number, spoke with a supervisor named Christy. She took all the info I had but nothing came of the conversation.

  6. Placed my order online at 12.07PM on Jan. 22. Credit card showed charge pending for the coin in mid Feb. Then I was unable to access my account at the mint. Credit card charge then released by credit card company. So my coin was not going to be shipped. Then a charge pending showed again on credit card. Received email from mint that coin was shipped on Feb. 25. Received coin on Feb. 27. Came priority confirmation in cheap white box. Nice coin and worth the frustration but that often happens with the US Mint. Can’t always get what you want when you want it.

  7. Ed Miceli says

    Update…..rec’d an email 10:07pm last night from the Mint that my UHR has been shipped. They still are not using the true FIFO method. I hope they get this issue fixed soon.

  8. Ordered UHR on 1/22/09 12:45 P.M.
    Order was shipped today, 3/4/09

  9. Ed Miceli says

    Hi, I’ve rec’d my coin and I’m blown away by this! Well worth the wait. The presentation is amazing and my coin is flawless, wow!

    Still unhappy how long it took, lack of communication and knowledge to the delay.

    Grab one of these if you can. Wow!

  10. Bow Watts says

    Ordered on the first day at 12:00 @ received on March 3rd. Beautiful case. Sent to PCGS for grading.

  11. I received my coin yesterday. What a disappointment. The size is too small to really appreciate the beauty of the coin. With all the hoopla surrounding the issue, it just doesn’t live up to the publicity. I’m glad I couldn’t buy more than one. It will not be an investment piece nor is it a great collectible.

    The customized box is very elaborate and seems to over power the coin.

    Admittedly, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but the Mint has issued coins far more beautiful than this one; like the original $20 1907 high relief, and my favorite, the Gobrecht silver dollar.

    I guess it really is about profit for the Mint and not the collector.

    PS – why send the coin in to be graded; do you really think that most coins won’t grade 69 or 70, and the difference will be purely subjective.

  12. I ordered mine 3 hours after they opened ordering on their website on 1/22 – I finally received email confirmation today that it was shipped today (and the tracking confirmation confirmed an expected delivery date of Monday).

  13. I ordered mine on day one. Had to call them back when my debit card number changed, which may have put me back into the cue at a new starting point.

    The track site showed “in stock & reserved” with a ship date of 4/1 when assumedly the book will be ready.

    I read somewhere that there seems to be no rhyme nor reason to when orders came in and when shipping/arrival at destination happens.

    Is the amount the Mint will bill me based on the price of gold on the day of shipping, since no charges have yet appeared. Will it be the amount shown on the tracking, or adjusted based on the price of gold on the shipping day?

    Nowhere on the US MINT site is this issue addressed. And that makes me wonder if they are staggering shipping…because of current pricing.
    Surely, they must now have the planchets. How much did they pay? Are they juggling shipments to maximize profitability?

  14. Robin,

    The US Mint will charge you the price in effect when you placed your order.

    Regarding the order of shipping, they were supposed to be shipping FIFO, meaning people who placed their orders first would receive their coins first. This has definitely not been followed, and no explanation has been provided.

  15. Frank Costello says

    Ordered coin first day and and it was shipped on 02/24/2009 Delivered on 02/25/2009. I guess I got one of the first ones

  16. Hiroshi Osaka says

    I ordered one UHR 2009. It is a wonderful coin. I wanted more, so I got one more on eBay then a third one that is First Strike PCGS MS70. I always thought they would make no difference in quality among all these mint state coins. However, as I lined them next to each other, I can clearly see why PCGS certified MS70 is superior in quality. It’s not about the slab. The First Strike MS70 slabbed coin is so much crispier and proof-like, because the die was very new and has no erosion. My bet is that only the First Strike MS70 will appreciate in value in the near future. The U.S. Mint has already struck over 53,000 by now. The die quality must be deteriorating quickly. From now on, I will only buy the slabbed First Strike MS70 coins, b/c they were struck when the die was still sharp and new. It’s better to buy the slabbed First Strike MS70 rather than purchasing coins that are struck with eroded die. It’s only my opinion.

  17. I ordered my coing the first day and it arrived today: magnificent! With regard to Hiroshi Osaka’s post, the mint doesn’t get 53,000 from a *standard* dies (from stats they’ve made public I think it’s around 45,000) and I’m sure they are changing the die much more often, given the (a) the prestige of the coin and (b) the probably greater pressure used for the UHR. Also, if you get a First Strike at the END of a die run it’s going to be nothing like all the coins later minted at the START of any other die run.

  18. Received my companion book for the UHRC today.
    All the inserted pages are upside down. Oh well!!

  19. R Darrington says

    I received my companion book yesterday. It appears to be bound backwards and upside down. The cover which contains the picture of the coin and is indented, is on the back and upside down when the pages are oriented so that they can be read normally.

  20. A few other people also reported “backwards books”. I think one of them sold on eBay for a premium.

  21. Ed Garner says

    Ordered my UH1 on 4/9/09. Was notified of shipping on 4/14/09 and received it 4/16/09. Very surprised but happy since customer service told me shipping not till 6/24/09. Just lucky I guess. Called customer service and they couldn’t explain how this happened In my case. Good luck to all buyers

  22. Edward Poian says

    Received the coin first – I was mesmerized. It is beautiful, I went to see St. Gaudens Sculpture of General Sherman at Central Park, the Eagles and the Statue reminded me of this precious coin. The Book arrived 4 weeks after the coin, perfect, intact, and a treasure with the front-pages lined in satin. This is truly a set which will sell for over 10 thousand after the first year.
    Dr. E. P.

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