Mints and Mintmarks - Issue Limits

Written by Ian Davis – Bullion Manager • Last updated 17 Dec 2018

Issue Limits on Gold Sovereigns

Most coins are mass-produced for use in circulation, in large quantities as dictated by supply and demand. Proof coins, coin sets, and other special issue coins produced for sale to collectors are usually marketed with an "Issue Limit" to enhance their appeal to buyers.

Proof Sets

Proof coin sets are comprised of specially produced coins, with a superior finish, mainly for sale to collectors. These are sold at premium prices, and many collectors take an interest in the maximum quantity which has been announced for the issue. We presume that this is because these collectors consider that a lower issue quantity will enhance any investment potential, although our own advice is to buy for pleasure rather than investment, whether you are buying coins or any other products.

The other factor with a low issue limit might by the availability. If there is a low limit, then the initial demand may outweigh availability, and collectors may be disappointed if they fail to get the item they wanted. A high issue limit may make it more likely that a particular issue could be purchased later at a lower price. Obviously this depends whether the collector prefers to be patient and get a bargain, or prefers to ensure that he gets the latest product as soon as possible.

Non-Proof Issues

Single proof coins and non-proof coins and sets are also often marketed with an issue limit when sold for collectors.

Mintage Figures

The two terms "Issue Limits" and "Mintage Figures" are often used interchangeably, but there is an important difference. The mintage figure is the quantity actually produced or released, while the issue limit is the maximum quantity authorised. Most mints try to guess how many they are likely to sell before deciding on their issue limits. If they under-estimate, then the two figures are likely to be the same, while if they are over-optimistic about demand, the mintage figure will be lower than the issue limit.

On a number of our web pages, we have now started to show both issue limits and mintage figures for collectors coin issues.

Time Will Tell

Obviously for any new issues, we get to know the issue limits in advance, but we only learn the actual mintage figures later, often many years later, when the mints release data about their production.

Serial Numbers

Serial numbers exist higher than the mintage figure for some coins and sets. The reason for this is that the Royal Mint, and other mints, do not (or did not) necessarily use their certificates in strict numerical order.

Read more on branch mints

You may wish to view all of our articles on our gold guide