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Gold limit reduction could change things

The Mint’s last-minute decision yesterday to cut its gold Kennedy half dollar sales limit in half doubles the number of people it will be able to sell a coin to at the American Numismatic Association convention next week.

Motivating this change was the Mint’s assessment of reactions it had been receiving to its previous decision to set the limit at two coins per person at the Mint booth starting Aug. 5.

The decision is probably the only one that could be reasonably made by a public institution like the Mint, which still answers to Congress even though it has some attributes of a private business.

That being the case, would-be speculators have just had their potential profits halved as well.

Grading services on the floor of the ANA probably will have their paperwork related to these coins doubled as clients who would have been turning over to them two coins for every transaction will now have just one. I know the grading services will have the staff present to handle it.

How close to 100 percent coverage will the major grading services achieve on those first 500 coins on the first day of issue? And then on the subsequent quantities of 500 a day for five days?

I expect the services will slab a quite high percentage of the gold coins. There is likely no potential buyer of the gold Kennedy coins who is unaware of the rocketing prices for slabbed baseball coins after they went on sale March 27 in Baltimore.

Slabbing is now required to achieve top profitability by the speculators. Dreams of fantastic profits will probably guarantee that there will be 500 people to take up those first 500 coins.

Any of those 500 coins sold on the first day of the ANA that achieve a Proof-70 grade will start appearing on eBay and elsewhere online. We then can stand back and assess price action on the secondary market.

How these coins do on the secondary market might very well influence whether there will still be 500 people eagerly buying the day’s allotment of coins at the Mint booth on the final day of the convention Aug. 9.

Any signs of secondary market uncertainty that appears from first day to last could have a strong impact on behavior in real time at the convention. That is something to watch for.

Special show grading labels have put us in new territory.

Ordinarily, the knowledge that the Mint already has 40,000 of the gold Kennedy halves ready to go would dampen levels of buyer enthusiasm with such a high issue price of $1,240. But the special show label slashes this to no more than 2,500 pieces.

That’s a horse of a different color. In this case, it is a golden color.

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."