Round numbers are strange things. All of us tend to round when we are doing calculations in our heads because it makes it easier to come up with an approximate answer quickly.
How interesting is it then that the last reported sales number for the two-coin San Francisco 2012 proof silver American Eagle set basically is a round number, 250,738? Sales of the set ended yesterday at 5 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time.
What’s more, this round number nearly matches the 248,875 total number of 20th anniversary sets sold in 2006.
With all of the excitement surrounding silver American Eagles in the past six years and all of the hype surrounding silver bullion generally in that time, you could be forgiven for thinking that the number of collectors of silver Eagles might have grown.
But this order total seems to indicate that it has not. The number of collectors might even have shrunk some in the past six years. Remember the collectors who said they were going to stop collecting when no 2009 proofs were issued? We cannot reach a definite conclusion about the number of active Eagle collectors from these numbers because without order limitations, the current total could have been swelled by large individual orders.
So what can we conclude?
I think the Mint can be congratulated for running a program where the number of coins to be struck will be made to match the number of orders received.
This action has brought down the number of collector complaints, though I expect some will grouse about waiting until late September to get delivery.
Eliminating collector complaints is a good thing, but running programs for relatively short periods of time and then minting coins to match the sales is good for numismatics for another reason.
It improves the psychology of the hobby and the marketplace.
Short order periods mean collectors need to pay closer attention to Mint offers on an ongoing basis. That means they stay engaged with it, rather than tuning in and out, because the implication is if they are not paying attention they might miss something that other collectors are able to buy.
That competitive spirit is contagious and when it infects most collectors there is a palpable energy in numismatics that even outsiders can feel.
This is a far better mind-set for hobbyists than thinking they have three months, six months or 12 months to buy something.
Even though the demand for the 2012 Eagle set was not much higher than for the 2006 set, compare the number ordered to the two commemorative silver dollars being sold this year. Eagles win hands down.
Human nature being what it is, if you let a potential order slide long enough, you are not likely to place it at all.
However, if you think the Mint is going to snatch something away from you that might be good, it is far more likely that you will act and send in an order.
Can I prove this? No.
It could be nostalgia for a time gone by that clouds my reasoning ability.
I don’t think so.
That’s why I hope the Mint will put many of its future programs on short time lines.
Buzz blogger Dave Harper is editor of the weekly newspaper “Numismatic News.”