Skip to main content

For bullion, wait 'til the sun shines, Nellie

In the end, the Mint wasn’t a magician.

No rabbits were pulled out of hats.

Weak demand for American Eagle bullion coins evidenced in monthly statistics for most of last year stayed that way. Silver Eagle sales plunged by nearly 20 million pieces to finish 2017 at 18,065,500.

Only two years ago, the figure was 47 million.

The 2016 number was 37,701,500.

This slide looks like hula-hoop sales after the fad collapsed when I was a kid.

Where did 62 percent of the Mint’s market go?

Gold lost that much market size in just 12 months

The final 2017 sales of 302,500 ounces of gold Eagles (four sizes) compares to 985,000 in 2016.

The gold drop is 69 percent.

The bullion coin sales from other countries are also down, so it is not a reflection of the quality of Mint products.

Both gold and silver Eagle market numbers dropped to the lowest level since 2007, which is the year before the financial crash.

I do not normally cite gold Buffalo sales numbers.

They are an important product in the Far East because of greater gold purity, .9999 fine compared to .9167 fine.

Asians prefer higher purity.

However, even they were buying less gold.

The U.S. Mint sold just 99,500 pieces in 2017.

That is down 53 percent from the year before, and 55 percent from two years earlier.

Imagine these declines looking good.

Compared to Eagles, they are better.

Nevertheless, the 2017 Buffalo bullion coin sales were the lowest recorded for the program.

Weak bullion sales occurred despite the fact that both gold and silver bullion rose in price during the year.

Gold was stronger. It was up 13.6 percent to close 2017 at $1,306.30. The close at the end of 2016 was $1,150.

Silver moved up by 7.1 percent to $17.06. The ending 2016 number was $15.936 an ounce.

Now it is onward in 2018.

But when are the the 2018 bullion coins going to be available?

I was told nearly a month a go that the Mint would let me know.

I am still waiting.

So are bullion investors – and that is worse.

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."

• Like this blog? Read more by subscribing to Numismatic News.