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Rings coins lose their sparkle

Peter V O'Brien

Friday 5th December 2003

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People who think New Zealand Post's householder mail promotion of the Lord of the Rings coins and stamps is the key to a hot "investment" should have a lie down.

The postal operation is selling commemorative coins singly and in multiples under the coinage sale rights obtained from the Reserve Bank in 2001. It is offering 16 stamp deals.

Anyone who pays $29.95 (basically $30, but NZ Post knows a price ending in 95c will sell better than round dollars) for a coin with a $1 face value and unlimited mintage needs help unless they want a memento of the film trilogy.

The NZ Post promotion brochures were creatively over-the-top in extravagant language and a lack of important information.

"This is the coin collection of a lifetime ­ a priceless opportunity to acquire your own mementos of one of the world's greatest cinematic achievements."

After extolling its pride in launching "an expansive coin collection" NZ Post seemed to omit a crucial fact.

The brochure said "each legal tender" coin was produced in "exquisite detail" and so on.

It failed to mention "legal tender" is notes or coins carrying Reserve Bank approval and a bank guarantee of redemption, meaning it will eventually redeem your $29.95 $1 coin for $1.

Discussion with Reserve Bank officials ascertained the coinage was approved. Governor Alan Bollard signed the documents and apparently took personal interest in the coin issue.

The bank could strain credibility with approval of unlimited commemoratives through its farm-out agreement with the state-owned postal system.

For example, and pre-NZ Post deals, there is minimal interest in my inherited seven Beehive $1 coin of 1978, nine 1974 Christchurch Commonwealth Games dollars, five Cook bi-centenary dollars and a heap of 1949 George VI crowns.

There is also stuff issued for royal visits of various years, which could probably be redeemed at the Reserve Bank for face value.

A lot of such material was auctioned at John Mowbray International's coin sale on November 6.

Realisations for offerings of multiple New Zealand commemorative coins in proof condition in some cases failed to justify holding the material, after accounting for inflation and lost opportunity cost over the years.

NZ Post's Lord of the Rings stamps will get attention from dealers who must keep stocks of everything emanating from a profligate stamp issuer.

It is interesting to note the occasional "errors" in New Zealand stamp issues (NBR, Nov 28). They have appeared in limited issues, sometimes in mass issues and are usually confined to a few sheets or individual stamps.

A cynic might wonder if the errors, here or overseas, were nothing more than printing accidents or oversights in releasing them to the postal markets.

Any flaws in the Lord of Rings stamps would be apparent immediately, given the relatively limited size of the commemorative issue.

That does not negate the possibility of errors.

It is no reflection on any postal service anywhere to wonder about the opportunities for skulduggery in stamp issues, given the many people who must be involved in production and distribution.

NZ Post has a good record in attempting to retrieve errors when they were discovered, but some have slipped though in recent years and command solid premiums among philatelists.

The Lord of the Rings hype will probably ensure success for the commemorative coins and stamp issues.

Nobody should get involved in the unlimited mintage coins if they are seeking a long-term, appreciating investment.

Their eventual heirs might do no better than going to the Reserve Bank for face value redemption.

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