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Nostalgia goes for the gold

Were collectors who rapidly pushed yesterday’s Mint offer of a gold Mercury dime to a sellout making a purchase based on nostalgia or intelligence?

Setting aside for a moment the possibility that the answer to the question could be both, the facts are that 125,000 gold Mercury dimes priced at $205 each with a household order limit of 10 seemed to sell out in less than a hour.

They went on back order after 15 minutes and unavailable after 40.

This is the first coin in a widely talked about set of three that will celebrate the centennial of the great designs introduced in 1916.

Nostalgia certainly played its part.

There are many collectors who have sets of Mercury dimes. I expect many are like me. They began but never finished the set in the circulation finds era.

Many of them have kept their sets for sentimental reasons. Those sentimental reasons sprang vividly to life in the lead up to the sales offer. The fact that many collectors lamented that they were not made of silver was a strong indication of the heart strings being tugged.

Collector sentimentality alone was probably enough to reach the maximum sales number of 125,000.

What about collector intelligence?

I find it hard to believe anyone who has been active in modern numismatic issues in recent years would consider something with 125,000 mintage to be rare. However, coins that make the 70 grade might be.

Coins that are labeled early releases might have been at least scarce, but it looks like most of the mintage could achieve that designation.

A quick check of eBay shows that raw coins have asking prices from $300 to $350 while MS-70 Early releases range from around $450 to $600.

Whether many will sell at these prices is the question. We will see how the secondary market plays out.

The intelligent thing to do now for a potential buyer who missed out yesterday at the Mint should be to wait a while for the secondary market to settle down.

First prices quoted tend to be highest prices quoted. As more and more gold coins reach collector hands, the likelihood is prices will fall.

Will they fall back to issue price?

If the gold Kennedy half teaches us anything, it is that these gold coins can go back to issue price.

Will they fall to bullion price?

The lesson of the Statue of Liberty gold $5 coin is that over time they can.

If nostalgia was the driver of most of the sales yesterday, we know this will no longer be a factor in the marketplace in 10 or 20 years. My generation will be gone.

Nostalgia might not even be a factor by next year. But it will be a powerful force for the next Mint offer of the gold Standing Liberty quarter and perhaps even the gold Walking Liberty half dollar.

But much higher issue prices for the quarter-ounce and the half ounce gold coins might find that even nostalgia has its limits.

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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