Gold coins are expensive.
Most collectors can afford to buy one from time to time, but not to build annual sets.
That’s why last year’s 100th anniversary Mercury, Standing Liberty and Walking Liberty gold coins were so popular.
It is also why the smallest and least expensive had the highest demand of all.
There simply will not be ongoing sets of these to consider.
Where there are ongoing sets, like the 2007-2016 gold First Spouse coins, there is a dramatic drop in purchases from first to last.
Where the first designs in 2007 were selling 20,000 proofs and 20,000 uncirculateds, the final designs are coming in at a tenth of those figures.
This proves that there is a hard core of gold coin collectors out there, but that it is very much smaller than the number of casual gold buyers.
In looking at the latest weekly sales numbers from the U.S. Mint, I see that buyers of the 2017 proof one-ounce gold Buffalo have taken 10,298 of them.
The 2017 proof one-ounce Eagle sales stand at 12,340.
The Eagle number breaks down into 5,361 individual proof one-ounce coins as well as another 6,979 that are part of the four-coin gold Eagle proof set.
Is it fair to conclude that hard core modern numismatic gold coin buyers number around 10,000-12,000?
I think that is a fair conclusion to draw from this data.
From that base we can conclude that there is another 75,000-125,000 collectors who can be persuaded to pony up funds to get special gold offers.
I think the sales of 63,547 gold Walking Liberty halves, 89,987 gold Standing Liberty quarters and 124,885 Mercury dimes are solid evidence of this.
In its first year of issue, 2006, the proof gold Buffalo was treated by collectors as if it was a one-shot special item.
Buyers grabbed 246,267.
That is a huge number for a one-ounce gold coin.
The 2016 proof gold Buffalo sold around 21,000 pieces, which is roughly 10 percent of the 2006 number, just like First Spouse late issues compared to the first issues.
Buyers of the first proof gold American Eagle one-ounce coin took an astounding 446,290 back in 1986.
But gold was about a third of the price back then.
That boosted affordability.
It is amazing what the novelty of a new issue combined with a much more affordable gold price produced in 1986.
What will be the next gold coin offer that will soar well beyond the 10,000-12,000 hard core buyers?
It will be interesting to see what the Mint can come up with.
It certainly is not the one-ounce 2017 American Liberty $100.
With current sales at 22,447, it is following the well-worn path lower from the roughly 50,000 sold of the first design in 2015.
It is in the process of transforming from initial novelty to a set that appeals only to the hard core.
Look for even lower American Liberty sales numbers in the coming years.
Buzz blogger Dave Harper has twice won the Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."
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