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It might be time to worry – or not

I was conversing with a dealer from the national circuit the other day about the seemingly slow start to the 2017 autumn collecting season.

ClassOf63 1031

He is earning his living, but he has nothing to write home about.

I can write the same thing. I am earning my living, but I wonder where the usual collector action and enthusiasm is.

The Mint proved this week that it can sell out a set that has a 50,000 mintage and a $139.95 price. The specifics of the Limited Edition set appear here.

But for someone like me who was raised up in numismatics when proof sets sold 3 million each year and a million mintage for the 1973 proof Eisenhower was considered unbelievably low, a 50,000 mintage seems more sad than tempting.

The secondary market rewarded buyers of the Limited Edition set with a gain of $48. You could buy them on eBay for $187.95 each after the Mint sellout. That’s a 34 percent gain. Shipping charges will reduce the profit on both ends.

What happens to these sets next year? I would not want to make a long-term investment in them. This is despite the fact that this set is one of only two ways to buy the proof 2017-S silver Eagle.

This coin, which was also in the Congratulations Set in April, will go into the guide books with a mintage of 125,000. While that is more than 50,000, it is far less than the popular regular silver Eagles of not that long ago.

The 2013-W proof silver Eagle reached 934,812 – and collectors were excited buyers without gimmicks.

The 2014-W was 944,757, the 2015-W 707,518, the 2016-W 572,877, and the 2017-W 317,957.

Where has silver Eagle enthusiasm gone?

Collectors are supposed to spend the money in their jeans when economic times get better. That is the old theory of retired Coin Market price guide editor Bob Wilhite. For many years, it was true. Is it now? Times were less good when the 2013-2016 proof silver Eagles were being sold yet collectors were buying them in far larger numbers. Why?

You can say the 125,000 is artificially low. You would be right. But the coin without any gimmicks, the 2017-W proof silver Eagle sales figure, is just a third of 2014-W issue. That’s quite a three-year tumble.

Perhaps I am looking in the wrong place for signs of action. At the national level, it is so-so.

At the local level here in Wisconsin, I have been getting regular reports of strong bourse action at the one-day shows. Buyers who go to these shows are filling out their Lincoln sets or other classic issues.

I have talked to one collector who was gushing about his recent purchase of a 1909-S VDB. Now, that is something I can appreciate.

Perhaps this autumn collectors are just acting outside of the national spotlight. If that is the case, I can quit worrying.

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News. >> Subscribe today.

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