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Big hopes ride on big numbers

One of the goals that U.S. Mint Director Ed Moy set for his trip to the World Money Fair in Berlin last week was to find “pockets” of planchets to meet the continuing heavy demand for gold and silver American Eagles.

It is to be hoped that he was successful. The future of the proof and uncirculated “W” collector versions of the American Eagle gold and silver coins hinges on the outcome.

For the silver Eagle, the Mint had a magnificent January. It sold 3,592,500 coins. This compares to 1,900,000 in January of 2009, a year, which during the summer, the Mint briefly did catch up.

Is this an augury of successful catch-up in 2010?

It could be, but January is a peculiar demand month because so many buyers are not the usual investors, but rank and file coin collectors who want the new date as soon as they can get them.

February sales will probably give us a clearer picture as the collector demand is satisfied.

The gold sales number does not particularly stand out. In January 85,000 were sold as compared to 92,000 in January 2009.

At first blush, you might think that the Mint is falling behind, but then when you consider it had 51,000 2009 coins left over in January, it would seem that overall demand is a little bit weak. If this is the case, the Mint is closer to catching up with the gold American Eagle than we might realize.