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Collectors abandon clad, cling to silver

Are coin collectors slowly abandoning coins not made of precious metals?

I believe they are.

I have more evidence.

Take a look at some numbers from the weekly Numismatic News "Mint Statistics" pages.

For 2015 five-quarter America the Beautiful clad proof sets, collectors have purchased 98,192. If you look at the silver set version, the number is a higher 101,552. It is 3.4 percent more than the copper-nickel clad number.

Now look at the 2016 five-quarter proof set sales numbers.

The copper-nickel clad total is 67,866. The silver version is 76,555. Silver sales are 12.8 percent higher.

Year by year, silver is gaining.

Both 2016 sales numbers are lower than the 2015 figures. But clad has fallen more. It is down 30.88 percent. The silver set decline is 24.6 percent.

Neither set has a trendline to envy, but it appears the buyers of silver are staying more committed to their purchases.

How about clad versus silver proof sets?

The 2015 clad proof set has a sales number of 653,230 while the 2016 total is 381,214. The decline is 41.6 percent.

For the silver proof set, the two numbers are 379,165 and 261,372, respectively.

The overall trend is also down, but the silver decline is a smaller 31.1 percent.

A case can be made that all of these sets have passed their “sell by” date. Five-quarter sets and full proof sets perhaps are terminally losing their appeal.

But the point can also be made that silver buyers are hanging tougher. That is how I interpret it.

Perhaps that is why there was a mad scramble to buy 322,317 proof silver American Eagle coins in the first three days they were available despite the fact there is absolutely no mintage limit.

This demonstrates a firm commitment to a silver coin by collectors.

This early 2016 sales number is almost half of the total for 2015 proof silver Eagles, which was 699,623.

It is too soon to tell whether the 2016 proof silver Eagle sales will equal the 2015 number, but if I had to guess, I expect it will.

The usual sales pattern is something like 320,000-160,000-80,000-40,000-20,000-10,000. This starts with the first partial week number and then each successive figure is a weekly number.

Such is the powerful appeal of silver coins that collectors will even read my statistics.

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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