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Interest returns to ATB silver?

It was time for the dentist chair this morning. That should make me think about gold – and it did – but silver, too.

One positive development from lower silver bullion prices might be an upturn in demand for the 5-ounce silver America the Beautiful collector coins.

So far, only two of the five P-mint collector versions have begun to be sold in 2013, but I see that the first design already has a sales number that exceeds three of the five designs of 2012.

So far, the White Mountain design has sales of 16,207 coins, 1,107 pieces fewer than the El Yunque design from 2012. El Yunque had the highest sales number of the five 2012 designs. It should be a piece of cake for White Mountain to pass this.

The question is why does it look like demand for this series will make an upturn this year? The trend since 2010 has not been encouraging. It seemed to parallel the results of the First Spouse gold set.

Sales of the First Spouse half-ounce gold coins has estblished a pattern of declining sales since the program began in 2007, and we are still looking for a bottoming out.

Silver is always more popular than gold because no matter what the state of the market, gold is always much more expensive, limiting the number of collectors who feel they can afford the purchase.

But with silver at the fairly low level of $20 an ounce these days, the Mint has put a price of $154.95 on the ATB coins, which almost seems cheap after the higher prices of not so long ago.

My impressions matter less than those of buyers who actually plunk down their funds. Sales numbers are a reflection of their willingness to make a purchase.

Right now that willingness seems to be on the rise.

If a solid uptick in demand establishes itself, it would prove to be a break with the downward pattern of the First Spouse gold coins. That, of course, will be good for the Mint, but also for collectors who stuck with it and bought the lower mintages. They might get a bonus on the secondary market when their time comes to sell.

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