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Collectors keep eye on silver Eagles

I was playing around with numbers this morning. I started with the latest weekly sales figures from the U.S. Mint. These sales figures will be input into the weekly Mint Statistics column in Numismatic News.

What would you expect collectors to spend more money on? Regular proof sets, silver proof sets, First Spouse gold coins or the 5-ounce America the Beautiful silver coins?

For 2011, if you said silver proof sets, you would be right. Collectors have shelled out roughly $38 million for the 561,425 2011 sets that the Mint has sold to this point. With prices fluctuating with bullion, this number was arrived at by multiplying the current price by the current sales total, so it is not an exact figure, but it gives you an idea of the relative order of magnitude.

The regular 2011 proof set is close behind at over $34 million.

Both of these figures are roughly double what collectors are spending on First Spouse gold coins and the 5-ounce silver coins.

Taking the eight 2011 First Spouse gold pieces I reach a figure of roughly $22 million.

This exceeds the nearly $18 million collectors have sent directly to the Mint to purchase the collector “P” mint version of the 2011 5-ounce ATB coins.

I would have expected that collectors spend relatively more on the 5-ounce silver coins than the First Spouse gold. That might be true, but since the Mint does not sell the bullion coin version directly to collectors we can only surmise that this is true. We do not know what percentage of the bullion pieces end up in collector hands.

If collectors buy an ATB bullion coin as a companion to the collector version in the same proportion as they do uncirculated commemoratives to proof commemoratives, we can add roughly another $7 million to the silver total, which at $25 million would just get by the $22 million figure spent on gold.

All of these numbers are blown out of the water by the proof silver American Eagle. The frenzy that collectors had been feeling in 2011 was backed up by their cash.

They shoveled roughly $50 million to the Mint to get the individual proof coins.

If that isn’t a manifestation of the strongest possible numismatic attachment, I don’t know what is.

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