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Will one silver size always fit all?

It’s a close race, but sales of the 2014 collector version of the five-ounce America the Beautiful coins are outpacing sales of the bullion version.

The collector version has a “P” mintmark on it. It is sold by the Mint directly to collectors. Current price is $154.95.

So far this year, collectors have purchased 69,623 of the collector coins.

Investors, on the other hand, have purchased 63,900 of the bullion coin version without a mintmark.

I checked the APMEX website to see what a current price is for the bullion version of the Arches National Park five-ounce coin. It is $122.25 if you buy just one coin.

That price is much cheaper than the collector coin, but the point of a bullion coin is to offer a known quantity of precious metal at a reason price. Perhaps investors don’t consider a 22.86 percent premium to be a reasonable price for a bullion investment. (Silver is $19.90 a troy ounce as this is written.)

If investors want to buy in quantity of 100 or more pieces, the price drops to $114.75 each, which is a 15.33 percent premium.

Because the premium for the one-ounce American Eagle bullion coin is very similar, this is not likely the reason for lagging purchases of five-ounce coins by investors. Lack of familiarity is probably the reason.

Markets for one-ounce U.S. silver coins have been developing for the past 28 years.  The coins are familiar. Who is familiar with a five-ounce coin?

While collectors are clearly becoming more comfortable with this five-ounce size, investors apparently need more time.

It is not likely investors will ever buy 40 times as many five-ounce coins as collectors buy of the collector version. This is the case with the American Eagle silver coin.

Sales totals of the five-ounce coin should start to skew more heavily toward investors as familiarity increases, though. But this might never happen. The one-ounce size might simply stay the one bullion size that fits all.

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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