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Anxious buyers pop December silver Eagle sales

Editor's Note: After this blog was posted, sales numbers reported by the U.S. Mint changed. It was not the normal sort of accretional change requiring an update but a significant change indicating that everything written here was completely wrong. Get the updated sales report in a follow-up blog posted on Wednesday, Dec. 5.

If I told you that 10 percent of all 2018 silver American Eagle bullion coins were sold since the beginning of the month, would you believe it?

December started just two days ago.

I hope you will believe it, because it is true.

On my Monday morning online rounds a few minutes ago, I saw that the Mint reports it has sold 1,645,000 silver Eagles.

For the entire year, the Mint has sold 16,480,000 silver Eagles.

Buyers seem to be anxious to get those last coins available before the break between the end of 2018 sales and the beginning of new date sales Jan. 14, 2019.

How anxious?

For comparison, let’s look at the gold American Eagle bullion coin sales in the last two days.

Buyers have taken just tenth-ounce coins in this short period. No ounces, half ounces, or quarter ounces.

Care to guess how many tenth-ouncers were sold?

If you said 5,000, you would be correct.

So we see a rapid snapping up of silver bullion coins and a very leisurely offtake of gold.

But why just the tenth ounce?

Do the silver Eagles and the gold tenth-ounce Eagles have anything in common?

You can make the case that both are popular gifts for Christmas.

Gold is not cheap. But the tenth-ounce price of $142.78, as quoted by APMEX, falls in the range of what you would pay for something for a loved one.

The silver Eagle at $18.41 each enlarges the circle of potential gift recipients.

So now the case has been made that the December sales number is a bit unusual.

How does it compare to recent months?

November sales were 1,270,000. October sales were 1,430,000. September sales were 2,897,500, which happens to be the second-highest monthly total for 2018.

Only January is higher.

Other than the rapidity of sales this month, the current December sales number really tells us nothing about what will happen in 2019.

We know January 2019 likely will see sales between 3 million and 4 million silver Eagles.

It is the month where there is a crush of demand to get the new date.

How do I arrive at these figures?

In January 2018, the number sold was 3,235,000.

The year turned out to be a slow sales year, so for 2019, it is probably a good base from which to begin.

If overall demand is going to rise in 2019 after three years of decline, we might see up to 4 million pieces sold.

In January 2017, sales were 5,127,500.

Can we do that again?

I would not expect to equal it in 2019, but if the Mint is priming the pump with extra quantities of coins available, it is possible.

Let’s watch and see what happens.

The important questions for one and all is will you be an early buyer of the 2019 date and how many will you buy?

Buzz blogger Dave Harper won the Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog for the third time in 2017. He is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."