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When gold is not popular

Sales of the 2013 First Spouse $10 half ounce gold coins will begin at last on Nov. 14.

The first design to be offered by the U.S. Mint will be for Ida McKinley, wife of William McKinley, who was assassinated in 1901, but not before he signed the gold standard into American law in 1900.

Once again the Mint has moved the mintage limit down a tad. It is now 10,000 coins as compared to 13,000 for the 2012-dated pieces.

The limit is any combination of proof and uncirculated coins, so if buyers wanted 9,999 proofs and one uncirculated, that would be that.

Of course, in practice, demand skews a little more closely to 56-57 percent proofs to 43-44 percent uncirculateds in the two most recent 2012 offers.

Because demand is so far below the ceiling, it makes me wonder why there is any ceiling on the order total at all.

It is not likely that anyone is waiting for an opportunity to order 15,000 at once.

Sales currently are running at 5,000-6,000 coins per design and the trend continues to be ever downward.

With online ordering, the Mint could probably generate that number of sales by simply saying it would accept orders for two weeks.

It might even break the downtrend by creating a sense of urgency in the program.

We still do not know how low demand can fall in the First Spouse series under the present sales approach. Will 2013 totals ratchet below 5,000 between the two finishes?

I would not want to bet against this.

Gold is expensive. The set is large. There has not been any significant interest in the coins since the first three designs were released.

Perhaps when Eleanor Roosevelt is in the spotlight, sales might take a turn higher, but that will be a year from now.

In the meantime, a sales limit of 10,000 seems not only ample, but superfluous.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is winner of the 2013 Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper “Numismatic News.”

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