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Gold's off and running

Yesterday was the first day of sales of gold bullion American Eagles in 2013 by the U.S. Mint.

Buyers grabbed 50,000 1-ounce American Eagles and 8,000 1-ounce Buffaloes.

Both figures could be ordinary monthly totals.

However, January is special as collectors scramble to be the first on their block to get the new date. Investors take new positions, unencumbered by their personal tax considerations from the old year.

And most importantly nowadays, collectors and investors keep an eye on the bullion-buying actions of the masters of exchange traded funds and hedge funds, which start the year off with a clean slate. Hedge fund compensation is based on performance and in recent years that simply means buying gold and letting it ride.

Gold bullion’s price rose in 2012, but the pace of the advance slowed a bit from the more than 10 percent achieved in 2011.

The precious yellow metal went from $1,565.80 to $1,674.80 a troy ounce, a gain of $109, or 6.96 percent. I am sure this will be rounded up to 7 percent because that will sound so much better.

Silver outpaced gold, but it had to. After a down year in 2011, silver rose from $27.87 to $30.173 a troy ounce, a gain of $2.303. That’s 8.26 percent.

I expect many of the ultimate owners of the new gold American Eagles sold by the Mint yesterday to its Authorized Purchasers are expecting further gains for gold.

Upward price action on the metals markets yesterday could only have enhanced this expectation.

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