I received my Donaldson box yesterday 1 Aug 2008 and its number is 1853! So, 3 years after this discussion started and 6 years after the release of this marvelous set, it has not yet reached the halfway point... Very strange...
I already listened to the first CD two times!
This has been discussed many times around here but I suspect you were not with us at that time. The set numbers don't really mean much. The fact that you have received number 1853 doesn't mean that they have only sold 1853 sets. I am sure this one is not far from going OOP. BTW, welcome here!
Actually, the numbers DO mean much for the big boxes. It's been well established here that those are numbered sequentially as they are sold (hence, the hand-numbering of the booklet using the sequential number on the receipt at the time of sale). Of course, there's a wrinkle in this system with the Universal-distributed Mosaics (which don't include the Donaldson, of course), since those are not individually numbered and are sold by a variety of merchants. Also, the older Selects (as opposed to the newer ones, which aren't numbered at all) are machine-numbered at the time they were produced, and are not sold in sequential order (especially since, like the newer Universal Mosaics, they are widely distributed and not only sold directly by Mosaic).
But the big boxes sold directly by Mosaic are all individually numbered in sequence at the time of sale, so Alexandros' set number 1853 is, in fact, the 1,853rd Donaldson set sold.
Not quite true. The folks at Mosaic told me it's the computer that assigns the number to the big boxes, picking it at random from all still available numbers, and it's then written into the booklet. Therefore, set #1,853 isn't necessarily the 1,853rd set sold.
I'm pretty certain this is not true, though I am not doubting you that someone at Mosaic gave you this info. I will double check with them, but I'm pretty certain that the computer spits out the next available number for sale and does not scramble up the numbers for no logical reason at all. Most of their sets are manufactured 500 at a time, so numbering the sets in order makes it easy for them to see when the next batch of discs for each title needs to be made. There have been many times when members here have ordered a Mosaic set right around the same time I did and our numbers are very close to each other. I bought my Donaldson box a couple of days ago and got 1891.
I can confirm that J.A.W's account is accurate. Apparently Mosaic receives funding from the National Science Foundation to test some of their random number generators.