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Proof Eagles ready to take flight?

This article was originally printed in the latest issue of Numismatic News.
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I was delighted to see a half-page U.S. Mint ad in last week’s paper. While the revenue is certainly welcome, what caught my eye was that the ad featured a list of products going on sale between now and the end of the year.

At the very end were four items with the “TBD” notation: “To Be Determined.”

Those last four items were the proof and “W” uncirculated versions of the silver and gold American Eagle coins.

Now the Mint could not have timed the ad better. No sooner had the paper gone to press than I received a telephone call from a reader who wondered if the Mint had a list anywhere of its future products.

Now the caller did not share with me any information as to which products he was interested in, but I can guess.

I think collectors are starting to get a little antsy about the collectible American Eagle program. We’re now well past the halfway mark in the year and loyal Mint customers are hoping against hope that the one-year gap in their proof Eagle sets will not become two.

What do you think the ad means?

I interpret its appearance as a good sign that these coins will indeed be made this year and sold to collectors.

I cannot believe the Mint would spend good money simply to repeat that maybe we won’t get collector versions of the Eagle coins in 2010. Over and over again we’ve been told that the Mint interprets the authorizing law as requiring the Mint to meet the demand of bullion coin investors before it can produce collector versions. This conditionality has been repeated in stories all year. Is it necessary in an ad?

I believe the ad is part of the process of getting us to a happy ending. The Mint explicitly asked Congress to grant the Treasury secretary permission to divert silver blanks from the bullion program to the collector program in the hearing we reported on last week.

For Congress to turn down that request would be a level of heartlessness that I don’t think anybody could fathom. Certainly Congress doesn’t want to irritate loyal American Eagle investors, either, but the silver American Eagle has been rationed all year long and I am not aware of any deluge of complaints hitting Congress.

The complaints that I am aware of all come from collectors. That seems to be the vocal constituency that the Congress is about to react to.

It is hard to believe that the diversion of 800,000 blanks to collector silver American Eagles would make much difference to the investor coin market. What’s 800,000 fewer coins in a four-month period when almost 2.5 million will be still available each month?

I can certainly be wrong about this. Congress doesn’t tell me of its actions in advance. The Mint could be putting a paper trail out there to point to should it all go against collectors again this year.

But I simply am not that pessimistic. I think collectors who mark their holidays, or birthdays, or anniversaries with proof and uncirculated gold and silver Eagles will have that chance again in 2010.


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