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Congratulations on silver Eagle record

A new record was reached yesterday for sales of silver American Eagles in a single year.

The U.S. Mint said total purchases had reached 40,175,000 of the 2013-dated coins.

This surpassed the previous record high set in calendar year 2011 when 39,868,500 were sold.

Sales, of course, are not yet finished for the year. The Mint will take its last orders for 2013 coins on Dec. 9, so we can anticipate that another 3 million or so coins will pad the new record between by then.

Silver Eagle demand is now snapping up four times the number of coins sold by the Mint in 2007, before the economic crisis upended the financial world. Sales in 2007 were 9,887,000 pieces, which was still below the 1987 production record of 11,442,335 pieces.

In 2008, sales doubled to 19,583,500 as panic fueled demand for hard assets.

In 2009, when the stock market was bottoming out, silver Eagle buyers stocked up on 28,766,500 coins, roughly 50 percent higher than the prior year.

Sales increases slowed their rate of gain after that. In 2010 34,662,500 silver Eagles were shipped. In 2011 that figure rose to 39,868,500. A gain of 5,206,000 pieces is not a small figure, but in percentage terms it was just 15 percent.

Sales actually declined by more than that in 2012, touching the 33,742,500 mark.

Even if silver Eagle numbers reach 43 million this year, that impressive figure still pales in comparison to the Mint’s output of Morgan and Peace silver dollars in 1921 and 1922 when it was working to replace 270 million coins melted under terms of the 1918 Pittman. Though it took until 1928 to replace them all, huge strides were made early in that decade.

In 1921 86,730,000 Morgans tumbled off the Mint’s presses, but it took three minting facilities to achieve this.

If Philadelphia output alone is examined, it looks remarkably similar to the Mint’s current feat. There 44,690,000 Morgans were struck.

In 1922, Philadelphia dollar output contributed 51,737,000 of the 97,600,000 Peace dollars struck that year.

Current output numbers have to take into account the several million silver Eagles produced in San Francisco.

These numbers from nine decades ago do nothing to diminish the Mint’s current sales feat, but they do put it in the context of another high point in the Mint’s more than two centuries of existence. Congratulations are in order.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is winner of the 2013 Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."