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Proof silver Eagle flutters along

Core buyers of the United States Mint’s proof silver American Eagles seem to be deserting the program.

This is one conclusion that can be drawn from first day sales number for the 2017 coin.

Buyers took up 226,173 silver proofs in the first 24 hours.

This compares to last year’s first day total of 262,816.

Last year’s coin was a special 30th anniversary issue with edge lettering rather than reeding.

Its sales should be higher.

Some collectors like to jump in to buy special American Eagle issues.

However, the fact that only 36,643 fewer proofs were sold last week on the first day shows that last year’s special silver Eagle issue was not viewed as particularly special.

It certainly was not enough to reverse what is becoming a worrisome downtrend in proof silver American Eagle demand.

The 30th anniversary proof of 2016 currently has sales of 550,054. (It is still being sold.) We have to add another 41,611 proofs that are part of the Ronald Reagan Coins & Chronicles Sets and 38,870 in the Limited Edition silver proof set to get an overall sales figure of 630,535 2016 silver proofs.

This is almost 70,000 fewer than the 699,623 silver proof Eagles sold in 2015.

As recently as 2006 over 1 million were sold.

As recently as 2013, the total was 918,680.

Even though sales of the 2016 are not yet finished, a decline of roughly 31 percent from 2013 sales levels is not encouraging.

Now the 2017 coin proof coin is setting an even slower sales pace.

Are the flash and allure of the Mint’s offerings of special gold coins to blame?

Last year collectors had the opportunity to buy gold versions of the Mercury dime, Standing Liberty quarter and Walking Liberty half dollar.

If we assume collectors do not have infinite sums of money to spend, they have to make choices when special gold coins are created.

Are some collectors opting to go for the gold with money they might otherwise have spent on proof silver Eagles?

If collectors are saving up their funds for use on April 6 when the American Liberty 225th anniversary one-ounce gold coin becomes available, that could explain the weak silver proof Eagle number.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper has twice won the Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper “Numismatic News.”

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