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Buffalo bests American Eagle?

In the first four days of sales, collectors purchased 4,863 of the 2013 one-ounce gold Buffalo proof coins.

This number proves there are still collectors of the coin out there, but it is also a number that indicates that the ranks of collectors have shrunk a bit.

Demand for the 2012 proof put the sales number at 19,765. The 2011 proof was 28,693 and the 2010 registered 49,374.

The trend is obviously lower.

Perhaps buyers in those previous years expected rising bullion prices to make their purchases of Buffalo proofs a good investment. With bullion down so far this year, such an assumption is less plausible.

It could simply be the Buffalo proof coin is manifesting its own version of the long-established numismatic phenomenon where first years of issue tend to see the highest sales and subsequent years tend to see mintages drop.

Let's compare the 4,863 figure to the current sales total for the one-ounce proof gold American Eagle. That number is 7,615. The Eagle proof has been offered by the Mint for about a month longer and its sales total stands at 7,615.

The Buffalo proof number is also about double the first number put on the chart by the one-ounce Eagle proof, so this might be an early indicator that demand for this design will run ahead of demand for the Eagle proof, which it regularly does.

There is no question that James Earle Fraser’s design in collectors’ eyes is still much admired even if most hobbyists do not want to fork over $1,740 to prove it.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."