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Lucky day, lucky purchase?

Today is a very lucky day according to Cantonese-speaking Chinese. It is 8-8-08 and the word for eight sounds like words for "prosper" or "wealth," according to Mint Director Ed Moy, who was out on a visit to the San Francisco Mint Wednesday to promote sales of the sets.

To mark the occasion, the U.S. Mint began selling a week ago what it calls a Double Prosperity Set that contains a half-ounce American Eagle and a half-ounce gold Buffalo coin. The set is housed in a handsome wooden display case. The price is $1,228.88.

Even with the eights in the price tag, are gold buyers feeling lucky? I noticed this morning that the price is down to $858 a troy ounce, which is a six-month low despite the two eights in the price.

Buyers of the Prosperity set will pay $370.88 over the raw cost of the gold as of today. That is a mark-up of 43 percent.

Perhaps it would be wiser for individuals who want to take advantage of a gold buying opportunity to purchase the two coins individually from their friendly neighbhorhood bullion coin dealer for less money and keep the difference in price, or even buy a more convenient one-ounce coin instead.

Of course, set buyers get a nice box. There is no question about that. There are even occasions in my experience where box prices can get crazy. An example I clearly remember was the wooden box for the six-coin Statue of Liberty Set in 1986. It was trading empty for a time for $100 in the months immediately after issue.

Can collectors count on this box premium lasting over time? That is the dicey part. I wrote about the Constitution boxes in the trash barrel at the Baltimore American Numismatic Association convention yesterday. Those boxes clearly held no premium value.

Persons who want to celebrate an auspicious day on the calendar can buy the set. But celebrating and investing are two different things. Investors who buy the set might not feel as lucky a few days, weeks or months down the road.