Amongst the problems often cited for the American Arts Medallions Series (Buy on eBay) is the unwieldy and inconsistent method of distribution and sale to the public. During the course of the series, the method of distribution was altered three times and it was typically a very involved process for collectors or precious metals investors to actually purchase the medallions.
For the first two years of the program, potential customers were instructed to call a toll free phone number in order to obtain the price of each medal. The prices were based on the previous day’s London closing price for gold, which in some instances allowed customers to purchase the medals for less than the current price of gold.
With the prices confirmed, the customer would then go to their local post office to obtain an official order form and envelope. The orders would be validated by a postal clerk and payment made by postal money order, certified check, or cashier’s check. After submitting the order, it would take up to two months for the orders to be fulfilled.
From 1982 to 1983, the distribution and marketing of the American Arts Gold Medallions was turned over to J. Aron & Company. Under an exclusive contract, the firm would purchase the medals directly from the United States Mint and then resell the pieces to a network of dealers, who would make them available to the general public. In addition to the improved distribution process, the firm would also maintain a two way market for the medals.
Due to minimum purchase requirements of J. Aron & Company’s contract, the number of medallions sold by the United States Mint rose during the next two years. However, despite a multi-million dollar advertising campaign, sales to the public remained at minimal levels. It has been estimated that J. Aron & Company was only able to sell 15% of the medals they purchased to the public. The remaining unsold medals are rumored to have been ultimately melted. The firm was let out of their contract early, leading to the final iteration of the sales process.
For the final year of the series, the distribution of the medallions was handled by the United States Mint through a telephone marketing program. Medallions for all years of the program were offered for sale through a campaign targeted at previous customers. The medals were sold individually at a premium of $12 over spot for the one-half ounce pieces and $16 over spot for the one ounce pieces. Mintage and sales figures for the final year releases plummeted to the lowest levels of the series.
In the following year, the United States Mint would offer the medallions in sets through a telephone ordering system. The ordering options included a complete five-coin set of the one ounce medals and a complete five-coin set of the one-half ounce medals. When sales concluded, the Mint had sold 3,088 of the one ounce sets and 2,951 of the one-half ounce sets. After this final sales effort, the remaining unsold medallions were melted.