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January ends; that's the best news

January is over. Mint sales numbers are in. January 2014 bullion Eagle sales were much lower than they were in January 2013.

The Mint sold 39 percent fewer ounces of gold and 36 percent fewer ounces of silver.

Overall, the Mint sold 91,500 ounces of gold in the form of four sizes of American Eagles. In January 2013, the Mint sold 150,000 ounces.

The big declines were suffered by the ounce and half-ounce sizes.

Sales of one-ounce coins dropped by 49.8 percent. Sales in January 2013 were 124,500 pieces. In January 2014 the total was 62,500 one-ounce coins.

For the half-ounce gold, sales dropped 29.4 percent, from 17,000 to 12,000 coins.

There was good news for the two smallest sizes.

The quarter ounce saw a sales increase of 16.7 percent, going to 28,000 pieces in the month just past versus 24,000 coins in January 2013.

If there was a star performer last month it was the tenth-ounce gold American Eagle. Sales jumped by 45.5 percent. Last year’s figure was 110,000 pieces versus this year’s total of 160,000.

Silver Eagle sales in January totaled 4,775,000 compared to last year’s 7,498,000.

However, because the Mint is rationing the silver coin supply, it is logical to infer that the January sales total would have been higher, perhaps far higher, had the Mint had additional coins to sell.

The gold results are a more accurate reflection of the marketplace. Buyers could have had all they wanted. They simply did not want as many ounces as they took last year.

Obviously, though, buyers preferred the smaller coins to the larger ones.

That could mean jewelry demand is running higher than last year, or the tenth ounce is being heavily promoted. It often is the coin that marketers choose to offer noncollectors in national ads. The price point obviously makes the tenth ounce affordable to a larger number of people than the larger sizes.

Sales of the Buffalo one-ounce gold coin with its higher level of fineness, .999 as opposed to the gold Eagle’s .9167 , declined sharply also, but by somewhat less than the gold Eagles.

Sales in January 2014 were 41,500 compared to last year’s 72,500, a decline of 31,000 pieces, or 42.8 percent.

The percentage decline for these is not materially different from the Eagle numbers, so it confirms the general drop in demand for gold coins.

February has arrived. This month's sales numbers generally shrivel when compared to January.

Will this annual pattern hold?

We will see.

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."