In 2016 we will see the Mercury dime design, the Standing Liberty quarter design and the Walking Liberty half design made in gold.
In 2017, we might see historic designs from the 1790s to mark the 225th anniversary of the founding of the U.S. Mint in 1792.
Old designs on new gold blanks might prove to be very popular. They might not. What the possibility has done is cause puzzlement among some collectors.
Why should famous silver coins be struck in gold, they ask? Silver would be more affordable. That’s true. But silver would also be illegal.
You see, the Treasury secretary has the authority to create gold collector coins at will. Silver coins would require legislation. That means getting Congress involved.
Is Congress capable of enacting new coins without the mechanism attached for dishing out surcharge income to special interest groups? Technically, the answer is yes. In practical terms under current conditions, it is debatable.
No wonder then that Treasury takes what it has and tries to make the best of it.
Will collectors also make the best of it?
Next year’s three gold coins will contain .85 troy ounce of the precious metal. This is worth $906 at the current price of bullion. That is a great deal, but collectors are willing to stretch.
But stretch how far?
What if gold’s present trajectory continues lower? What if today’s $1,066 price becomes $966 by the time the special 2016 coins go on sale?
Will attractive mintage levels counter the impulse to throw up one’s hands at disappointingly sagging gold prices?
It is possible. Collectors were eagerly attuned to the low figures attached to the 2015 Coin and Chronicles sets. They will evaluate the numbers that will be attached to the gold Mercury, Standing Liberty and Walking Liberty pieces.
But then comes 2017. What if gold is $866?
There is no question demand in terms of numbers of coins sold is one way to measure results, but there are others.
The High Relief $100 issued this past summer shows that the Mint can sell gold. Some 45,579 were snapped up by collectors of a possible 50,000. At the last price of $1,490, that works out to $67,912,710 in sales. If collectors had put that money to work buying proof silver Eagles at $48.95 each another 1,387,389 would have been sold. Current sales levels of the 2015 proof silver Eagle stand at less than half that, 637,028.
Silver may be more affordable. But if gold buyers take fewer coins but send the Mint more money, why take the troublesome road to Congress asking for more silver? Why not take the bird in the hand?
Of course, collector reactions even to gold change over time. After three wildly successful commemorative gold coin issues in 1984, 1986 and 1987, collectors got tired of chasing gold in this form. They will tire of old designs on new gold blanks, but that is a problem for 2018.
This article was originally printed in Numismatic News.
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