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Let's play proof gold bingo

The question of the day is whether the downtrend in the price of gold will make collectors more likely or less likely to buy the 2015 proof gold American Eagle coins when the go on sale at noon Eastern Daylight Time.

I expect it will be less simply because so many would-be buyers are put off by what they perceive to be the high markups over bullion value.

The question, of course, is how much less?

By world standards, U.S. Mint markups on these collector coins are very low, but for gimlet-eyed buyers, any markup above bullion price has to be justified and rejustified.

The one-ounce coin has the lowest markup of the various sales options.

It is priced at $1,510. Bullion is $1,157.

That makes the markup 30.5 percent.

For the four-coin set, which contains 1.85 troy ounces of precious metal, the $2,797.50 cost incorporates a markup of 30.7 percent.

For the quarter ounce, the markup is 37.4 percent at the $397.50 sales price.

The $770 price for the half ounce is 33.1 percent above gold value while the $170 tenth ounce price is 46.9 percent over bullion.

Last year buyers took 19,842 one-ounce coins, 8,861 four-coin sets, 5,832 half-ounce coins, 5,929 quarter ouncers and 13,860 tenth-ounce pieces.

What will they be willing to pay for this year?

Even if today turns in a less than stellar result, as the rest of the year goes by collectors will be noting sales figures.

They also might change their perception of gold’s price direction.

If Greece decides not to pay its government debts to the euro zone countries and gives up the euro, the financial markets will react. That usually means gold rises.

With the uncertainty, collectors will probably be keeping a wary eye on the proof Eagles all year whether they are normally inclined to buy them or not.

Of course today’s demand begins with a base of committed collectors as well as buyers who will be playing the Proof-70 slabbed lottery game.

This baseline demand will provide the beginning point from which collectors will evaluate the rest of the year.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is winner of the 2014 Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."