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Mint should end

News that the proof one-ounce American Eagle gold and silver coins will not be produced in 2009 will disappoint many readers.

Some have believed these coins would never be released and will feel vindicated in their view.

But most readers, after getting over the initial impact of the announcement of what coins will not be produced in 2009 and which coins are still to come, will begin to wonder about what appear to be contradictions.

After all, if the proof one-ounce gold and silver American Eagles will not be produced, why bother with a proof one-ounce platinum American Eagle – especially since the bullion coin has been suspended all year long and will remain so?

Perhaps a few spare platinum planchets are lying around and the sales department needs to make its end of of fourth quarter numbers.

The likely commencement of sales of both the bullion coin version and the collector version of the one-ounce Buffalo gold coins also seems a bit odd.

If you can’t keep up with the American Eagles, why would resources be diverted to gold Buffalo blanks? Are 24-karat gold planchets easier to acquire on the world market than the 22-karat blanks used for gold American Eagles? Perhaps they are.

Or for that matter, why would you divert gold to the fractional tenth-ounce, quarter-ounce and half-ounce bullion American Eagles so late in the year if it is uncertain that the demand for one-ounce coins will be fulfilled?

Again, perhaps planchets of this size are easier to pick up on the open market.

I can’t answer the question, but I now expect that demand for the fractionals will be immediate and huge if they do go on sale in December because everyone will believe that mintage totals will be low. Why begin sales at a time of the year when instructions are usually being given to the authorized purchasers that the year’s supplies are exhausted?

To be sure, the Mint has stressed the word “tentatively, for all of its decisions. Next week I could turn into the numismatic equivalent of the old Saturday Night Live news sketch and simply say, “never mind.”

The fact that gold bullion’s price has taken a sharp ride higher as this column is written makes the possibility of a quick sellout of gold fractionals more probable.

Why would the Mint not simply write off all of these 2009 programs in one go, rather than risk further collector disappointment?

You got me.

But all of these questions aside, I think the Mint should consider abolishing the “W” uncirculated collector version of the American Eagle coins. Sell the individual bullion coins to collectors in a straightforward manner. With proper pricing and the $4.95 per order handling charge, the Mint should generate a revenue stream that is no threat to the bullion dealer network and it would eliminate all the stress, bother and costs of trying to keep in production coin issues that collectors have a difficult time mentally distinguishing from the bullion coins themselves.

Sometimes less is indeed more and this is probably one of those instances.

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