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Eagle starts slow

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News.
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After a two-year absence in 2009 and 2010, the uncirculated 1 ounce American Eagle gold piece with the “W” mintmark  has returned.

Did collectors miss it?

Not if early sales results for the 2011 coin are any indication.

Just 1,098 of the new coins were taken by buyers from opening day May 5 to May 9.

Sure, the numbers don’t even reflect a full week of sales, but in comparison, when the proof gold American Eagle 1 ounce coin went on sale April 25, 7,249 coins were sold in a four-day period.

2011 U.S. Coin Digest: Gold Coins
2011 U.S. Coin Digest: Gold Coins

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The highest demand for new collector coins from the Mint is usually during the opening days of their sale.

This year’s “W” uncirculated gold coin has a standard uncirculated finish that the Mint says is similar to what is employed on the bullion coin version. The issues of 2006, 2007 and 2008 had burnished surfaces.

In 2011, the Mint has abandoned this surface treatment for this and other issues on which it was employed, including standard mint sets of circulating coins.

Interest in “W” uncirculated gold 1 ounce coins peaked the first year they were introduced in 2006 when 45,053 were produced.

That was the year, when after 20 years of collector pleading, the Mint decided to offer a non-proof collector version of the standard gold American Eagle bullion coin, which is sold only through the Authorized Purchaser networks.

However, instead of a handy way of obtaining a bullion coin, it became a third kind of collectible because of the special burnished finish. This left collectors with the standard bullion coin without a mintmark and proof and burnished uncirculated coins with a ‘W” mintmark for West Point, N.Y.

Whether this was the cause of declining interest is not known, but sales of the 2007  1ounce coin fell to 18,066. Sales in 2008 fell to 11,908.

In 2009 and 2010 the “W” uncirculated gold 1 ounce American Eagle was not produced because of high demand from investors for the bullion coin version and the resultant shortage of blanks from which to strike these coins.

The law was changed last year to allow the Mint to strike collector versions of bullion coins even if there is a shortage of blanks. In 2011, no shortage of gold blanks has occurred.

How collectors will react to the abandonment of the burnished surface remains to be seen.

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