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A silver sellout likely

It won’t be long now until the National Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative silver dollars sell out, judging from figures released by the U.S. Mint yesterday.

Only 33,660 remained out of a maximum 400,000.

Proofs sales totaled 238,636 and uncirculated pieces stood at 127,704.

Sales began less than two weeks ago on March 27.

The 50,000 gold pieces available sold out in a day, whetting collector appetites for more.

Collectors can cite a number of reasons why the sellouts are occurring from the fact that these are the very first cupped coins offered by the Mint to the special labels offered by grading services for initial strikes.

High prices on the online secondary market complete the picture.

But this interest in baseball coins does raise something of a paradox.

Collectors usually believe that coins with lower mintages should have higher prices than coins with higher mintages, all other things being equal like grade, composition and rate of survival.

The Civil Rights silver dollar, which went on sale in January, has a maximum mintage of 350,000, 50,000 less than the baseball coins.

So far 45,480 proofs have been sold, which is just 19 percent of the purchases of baseball dollars.

For the uncirculated version, the Civil Rights dollar has a sales figure of 18,768, which is a bit less than 15 percent of the baseball coin total.

It is true that Civil Rights dollars are not cupped shaped, which is a characteristic that caught the attention of the general news media as well as collectors.

Are collectors solely buying the novelty?

If they are, the Mint can follow the lead of world mints and offer coins with holograms, colorization, square or rectangular shapes, etc., and replicate these sellout results.

The 50,000 gold coins sold might sound like a low mintage, but just looking back at the sales numbers for the 2013 5-star general $5 gold program, we see that the figure is almost five times the 11,502 gold pieces sold of which 5,844 were proofs and 5,658 were uncirculated.

For rarity, the 5-star generals win hands down.

But as every armchair economist knows, supply has to be paired with demand. If demand is high, which for baseball it clearly is, a higher supply can be absorbed.

However, we should look again at this topic in future months. High prices might be largely due to a current supply suppressed by slow deliveries.

Anyone ordering the few remaining baseball silver dollars today will have to wait until July 7 for receipt of the coins. Secondary market prices could change quite a bit between now and then.

In the meantime, the Mint is to be congratulated for the gold sellout and the likely silver sellout.

For the clad half dollar, there is still a long way to go. Proofs sold total 100,118 and uncirculateds 63,883. The 164,001 coin total is a long way from the 750,000 maximum, so perhaps potential rarity does have an impact on cupped coin buyers after 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."