For instance, dealers paid for the Sneezy issue immediately after placing their orders three weeks ago but may not begin receiving them until the end of the month.
Delivery time and the quality of the proof sets have improved with each issue, said Michael Armstrong, owner of Wayne Family Coin & Gold, Ltd. in Wayne, Mich.
And no complaints about Rarities are on file at the Industry Council for Tangible Assets, a Washington trade group for dealers and manufacturers of collectable proof sets.
Delay Not Unusual
Delivery lag time and the requirement that orders be accompanied by payment in full are standard in the minting business because it takes months to develop new proof issues and because minters say they can't produce without receiving money in advance.
To speed production--which ultimately cuts the time its dealers are without a saleable product--Rarities has added a second production shift and has increased the sales staff that handles wholesaling from the company's crowded, well guarded administrative offices.
At a separate manufacturing site in Anaheim--for security reasons, Simpson won't reveal the location--gold and silver bullion is brought in regularly to begin a 50-step production process.
The metals are first melted and formed into thin sheets, from which the coin-shaped medallions are cut.
The medallions then are struck with tempered metal forms, called dies, that are carved with an inverse image of the design that will appear on each side. Simpson said 15% of the pieces may be rejected on inspection and must be remelted and restamped.
While the value of Disney commemoratives resides in their rare-metal content and the sentimental attachment of collectors, the Disney name and image is so pervasive that "anything with Disney is a collector's item," said Beth Deishler, editor of Coin World, a weekly newspaper in Sidney, Ohio. "Baby boomers are collectors, and they're the ones in love with Disney."
New Buyers Attracted
The Disney mystique has created new customers for Rarities' proof sets, including some who have never bought medallions and others who typically buy only government-issued legal tender, Deishler said.
The medallions' "fairly reasonable price" has also spurred popularity, said Dennis Baker, editor of Coin Dealer Newsletter, which publishes daily in Torrance.
With no established track record, it's tough to speculate on the Disney medallions' extended value, said Bill King, owner of Newport Coin Exchange.
But the first Disney issue was a series of "Mickey's Christmas Fantasia" silver pieces. The one-ounce piece wholesaled for $17, retailed for about $30 and is reselling for $140 seven months later, several dealers said.
Deishler said Disney commemoratives have a better chance than most medallions of sustaining value because they have the highly prized Disney license.
Lois Fullmer, a buyer for Disney, said the medallions have been big sellers in Disney gift catalogues and at the company's parks in Anaheim and Florida.
She called Rarities a dependable supplier--high praise in a business in which a hot issue isn't unusual and in which meeting demand can become a nightmare.
Even the U.S. Mint has been plagued with an inability to produce fast enough to satisfy voracious dealers and collectors.