Are coins a luxury good, or are they for everyone?
That’s a question that has been asked repeatedly in the half century I have been a collector.
Collectors putting Lincoln cents in their Whitman albums have been shoulder to shoulder with bidders on 1804 silver dollars.
The answer to the question is that coins are both scarce and luxurious and average and widely available.
It depends on your level of interest.
It depends on your income.
The luxury side of numismatics seems to have prevailed in the first couple of days of availability of the 2017 proof gold American Eagle coins.
They went on sale March 2.
The Mint’s March 5 statistical sales report shows that the most luxurious option, as defined by highest price, was in greatest demand.
The four-coin set, which contains 1.85 troy ounces of gold and is priced at $2,890, was the most popular sales option.
Buyers snapped up 4,959 sets.
That figure equals 29 percent of the sales level of the 2016 set.
The next highest demand figure in these percentage terms was the tenth ounce.
It’s sales of 3,067 equals 14 percent of 2016 demand.
The one-ounce gold proof coin’s sales number of 2,883 equals 12 percent of the 2016 sales number.
The half-ounce had sales of 548 equaling 10 percent of the 2016 sales figure and the quarter ounce had sales of 679, which was 10 percent of 2016 sales.
Considering the fact that the four-coin set costs $2,890 and the tenth ounce $175, you have to wonder why something that is priced nearly 17 times more would outsell the cheaper product.
That is not how it usually works.
The 2016 sales numbers have the tenth ounce in the lead at 21,653 and the four-coin set at 17,243. These numbers are more in keeping with the concept that the more expensive item should have a lower sales number.
Are collectors who are enjoying the Wall Street rally splurging on themselves with 2017 four-coin sets?
Are four-coin set buyers simply faster at reacting to Mint opening sales dates?
Whatever the reason, the next sales report should start evening things out a little.
All gold Eagle coin buyers might be experiencing a little buyer’s remorse.
Gold bullion has been declining in price in recent days.
Will next week’s sales numbers reflect additional demand or order cancelations?
One thing all coin collectors can agree on: It is foolish to overpay for anything.
Buzz blogger Dave Harper has twice won the Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."
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