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Collectors put money where mouths are

There may be a recession, but that has not seemed to have had any impact on hobbyists’ willingness to buy the 2009 Ultra High Relief Saint-Gaudens $20 gold coin.

I checked the Mint Statistics information and this week the sales total stands at 55,513.

What this means is that in the two months since the coin became available, U.S. collectors have slid approximately $70 million across the Mint’s sales counter to buy the coin.

This total is approximate because the price changes weekly, but it has been on a gentle upward slope since the initial sales price of $1,189 was established. As this is written, the cost is $1,289.

Now in terms of banking bailouts, $70 million is not a lot of money, but in terms of the world we coin collectors inhabit, $70 million is a great deal of money.

Compare it to the 2009 Lincoln commemorative silver dollar, another Mint product that is proving popular and will likely sell out. As the sales total nears the 450,000 coins not included in a special set, collectors have ponied up just under $18 million in about five weeks’ time.

Just to make one more comparison, since 2008 United States Mint Silver Proof Sets went on sale last Aug. 26, collectors have coughed up almost $33 million for 734,108 sets. That’s a period of roughly seven months.

That puts the UHR $20s at the high end of current Mint collector offerings, and it is approaching the $100 million mark, which to my mind is a true Mint home run, achieved by very few programs. The proof one-ounce gold American Eagle of 1986 was almost $250 million and the Constitution $5 gold piece of 1987 was around $150 million as I recall.

I don’t throw out these numbers to rain on the UHR parade. Quite the contrary, I do so to prove the rare company it is keeping.

We need to remember that to ask average collectors to spend $1,189 or $1,289 on one coin represents a significant portion of their annual new coin purchase budgets.

They have done so, because it is a popular idea. It is a beautiful old design that has been rated highly by collectors for 100 years. But it is not simply a restrike. It has a diameter of the old $10 coin and a relief much higher than the original high relief gold $20s of 1907. These new coins are a fulfillment of the original dream of Augustus Saint-Gaudens and President Theodore Roosevelt. This original dream was thwarted by limited minting capabilities for achieving such high relief and lack of acceptance by bankers for the original high relief attempt in 1907. We all know how important bankers’ opinions are, now don’t we?

Fortunately for us, Mint Director Ed Moy made the UHR a signature product for his tenure as Mint director.

Collectors have proven how much they love it with their hard earned dollars and a few gripes about delivery delays and an initial lack of required signatures upon delivery were thrown in as a bonus.

Hey, but those gripes just go to prove that collectors truly do care deeply about the issue and that we haven’t given up our underlying and endearing personalities.

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