What is First Strike?
Early Release & First Strike Coins
Coin collectors, by nature, have an appreciation for distinction. In a market that recognizes the slightest nuances, a coin’s origin story can potentially add significant value. This is certainly true for historical coins. This is also part of the reasoning behind the coin classification known as Early Release or First Strike, which identifies coins among the first minted during production.
While the appeal of the Early Release classification is up for debate, some coin collectors believe the First Strike label is worth the added premium.
Defining First Strike and Early Release Coins
Among mints, there is no industry-wide standard for First Strike or Early Release coins. However, the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) and Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC), both leaders in third-party certification, define First Strike and Early Release coins as those received by the grading service in the first 30 days of release from the mint. Collectors and dealers pay a per-coin fee to gain special certification and packaging for coins under the PCGS First Strike and NGC Early Releases programs. Cutoff dates for coin certification are listed publicly and are generally verified using packaging postmarks. While PCGS focuses primarily on coins produced by the U.S. Mint, NGC certifies Early Release coins from mints spanning the globe.
APMEX sells a wide variety of coins designated as First Strike or Early Release. Such products include 2017 First Strike Silver American Eagle coins and 2017 First Strike 1 oz Gold Buffalo coins, both certified by PCGS. APMEX products certified by NGC include 2016 Early Releases 1 oz Silver Mexican Libertad coins and 2017 Early Release 1 oz Gold American Eagle coins. Hundreds of additional examples of First Strike and Early Release coins can be found across the APMEX website.
Debate surrounding the First Strike label
Collectors should be aware the manufacturing mint, including the U.S. Mint, does not apply the First Strike label or Early Release designation to any of its products. The U.S. Mint also does not track the order in which coins are produced and does not number its products.
According to the U.S. Mint, strict quality controls ensure each coin in a series is equally valuable and created using the highest quality dies. The mint also states its manufacturing facilities replace die sets multiple times during production so a collector is unlikely to pinpoint exactly which coins were produced first from a new die set.
While the U.S. Mint does not recognize any differences between First Strike coins and any other coin minted during a production run, some collectors value the distinction of owning the most freshly minted coins. In rare cases, these coins may have been produced before a design mistake was corrected or other change was made. Small distinctions between coins add interest and enjoyment for many collectors. Official certification packaging on a coin may also raise a coin’s resale value and premium over time.