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Eagle stampede or last gasp for buyers?

The U.S. Mint had a good day of sales when the 2010 gold and silver American Eagles became available to the authorized distributors Jan. 19.

The U.S. Mint had a good day of sales when the 2010 gold and silver American Eagles became available to the authorized distributors Jan. 19.


Buyers snapped up 2,440,000 silver American Eagles.

Gold American Eagle buyers took 49,000 of the one-ounce coins, only these were divided between old and new dates. The 2010 coins totaled 30,500 and the 2009 total was 18,500.

For a single day, these numbers are huge. Compared to final mintages for last year, they are tiny.

Trying to figure out where we go from here and whether we will get the proof versions back in 2010 and even the “W” mintmarked uncirculated version is basically a bet on whether you believe the Mint will be able to get ahead of the demand curve in the present 12-month period called 2010.

The Austrian Mint, no slouch in the world bullion coin market, said some weeks ago that demand for its gold coins would fall by 30 percent. A similar fall in gold American Eagles would take the 1,386,000 mintage of the 2009 gold Eagles down below a million pieces to 970,200. That would leave more than enough planchets available for any and all collector versions.

A demand decline would also allow the early return to the market of fractional gold American Eagles. In 2009 the market had to wait until December to get them.

Can demand for the silver American Eagles top the 2009 total of 29,134,000 coins?

There is little U.S. historical precedent from which to make a judgment. Look back at the mintages of the 1921 Morgans and 1922 and 1923 Peace dollars and you see mintage numbers of the same order of magnitude.

However, demand for silver dollars then was officially induced as they were replacements for the 270 million coins that were melted under the terms of the 1918 Pittman Act. The Treasury needed them to back Silver Certificates.

By 1928 the official demand ended and Peace dollar mintages were suspended until the economically unsettled years of 1934 and 1935 when President Franklin Roosevelt was trying any and every means to get the economy rolling.

Instead of a renaissance, the 1930s Peace dollar mintages were the last until an abortive 1964 attempt to revive them.

As with gold, any decline in silver Eagle demand in 2010 would hasten the return of the proof and the “W” uncirculated versions this year.

Once collectors have gotten used to the gap in their silver Eagle proof sets where the 2009 coins should be, they likely will climb back on the bandwagon and buy proofs at levels similar to or even higher than before.

Collectors who feel deprived of something often buy in greater numbers at their next opportunity. That could mean loads of silver proof Eagles in 2010.

So back to the results of Jan. 19: however you interpret the numbers, the salient fact is the Mint has generated sales of approximately $100 million in one day. That boggles my mind as I recall 1968 annual proof set sales of just $15 million.

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2010 U.S. Coin Digest, The Complete Guide to Current Market Values, 8th ed.

State Quarters Deluxe Folder By Warmans

Standard Guide to Small-Size U.S. Paper Money, 1928 to Date

Strike It Rich with Pocket Change, 2nd Edition