Last year the U.S. Mint sold nearly 40 million one-ounce silver American Eagle bullion coins. The silver American Eagle is in the top rank of the world’s silver bullion coins.
Also in 2011, the Mint sold just over 400,000 5-ounce bullion coins. That is roughly 1 percent of the Eagle number, or 5 percent if you choose to figure it according to weight.
This year the number of 5-ounce ATB coins forecast to be made by the U.S. Mint is set to shrivel by almost half to 225,000 if projections are met – and you know what can happen to projections.
Is that it? Are the 5-ounce America the Beautiful coins destined to follow the First Spouse gold coins to near irrelevance in the marketplace?
You would think that as popular an investment as silver bullion has become in recent years that there would be a far larger market for a 5-ounce bullion coin.
In fact, I think there probably is, but it will not be found by the present 5-ounce series.
Where the silver American Eagle is simplicity itself, one troy ounce of .999 fine silver that has become widely recognizable by market players in its 25 years of existence, the 5-ounce American Eagle designs come and go like a flashcard memory exercise.
Can you name the 10 designs that have already been struck and sold? How about the five designs due this year? I can’t recall them all without looking them up and I make my living doing this.
Imagine what a silver bullion investor who knows little or nothing about numismatics feels like when confronted by these pieces. I expect he or she will opt for the familiar American Eagles, or Canadian Maple Leaves or Austrian Philharmonic coins.
The 5-ounce ATB coins are fun to heft, but those people who do so might then spot the denomination, “Quarter Dollar” under George Washington’s portrait. Can such a large coin with a denomination of 25 cents be taken seriously?
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The important statement of .999 fine silver and the 5.0 ounce weight is stamped into the edge. Even collectors who have repeatedly read stories about these coins have to be reminded to look at the edges.
I expect this series will be allowed to run its course as the First Spouse gold series is being allowed to do. However it is a shame. In the case of the First Spouse coins, we already have convenient half-ounce gold coins, so they are not really needed in the marketplace.
Without the 5-ounce ATB coins, there is a void in the silver marketplace. Perhaps investors would not warm up to a 5-ounce coin of any type, but trying to keep track of 56 designs issued over 11 years is not something the average investor is inclined to do. Most don’t like to do the math to buy cheaper bags of pre-1965 U.S. silver coins.
That leaves collectors. There are some collectors for everything. However, the First Spouse coins demonstrate just how low sales numbers can fall and the ATB collector coins look like they will follow.