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Act early, cancel late

Collectors are predictable. That does not mean they are unchanging.

For many years collectors have acted to order numismatic items from the U.S. Mint on the first day of sales. This occurs for virtually all programs whether they are considered hot or routine.

Collectors also seem to jump at the very end of programs, particularly hot programs, to create a sales bulge just before the termination date.

A new tradition is developing. This is the order cancellations after the close of hot programs when it becomes apparent that the coins involved will not be delivered to the buyers in time to catch the most valuable grading service early strike designation.

How strong is the effect of this new tradition on orders?

For the two-coin 2013 West Point silver American Eagle set that contains the reverse proof and the enhanced uncirculated coins, the effect was substantial.

Collectors rescinded orders for 45,621 sets, or more than 16 percent of the original orders for 281,310 sets that the Mint received by the June 6 order deadline.

This effect canceled out the order surge in the last 24 hours of set availability. This collector buying surge totaled 38,084 sets in that end period.

However, neither of these effects beats out the granddaddy of all collector effects: the first day order rush. For this same set, collectors ordered 88,000 during the first two hours of availability on May 9. In the first 19 hours collectors purchased 140,648 sets and in the first seven days the order total was 191,726.

With an adjusted order total standing now at 235,689 as of Oct. 25, I have to wonder if keeping the order period open three more weeks to get from 191,726 to 235,689 is worth it to the Mint. This is a net order gain of 43,963 for three weeks of effort.

You can be sure that if collectors had only a week to order a special set instead of four, they would feel the urge to act even more quickly. That might even net the Mint a greater number of sales that would hold up against the new collector tradition of canceling orders.

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."