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Now even gold needs a gimmick

Just how strongly needed is the novelty factor with coin issues from the United States Mint?

When the 2018 proof gold American Eagle coins are put on sale March 1, most collectors will simply ignore them.

Such was not always the case.

When the first proof gold American Eagle $50 one-ounce coin was offered to collectors in 1986, it created a buyer’s rush.

This was pre-Internet, so the coins did not sell out in five minutes.

But they were new. They were different. They were novelties on steroids.

Collectors bought 446,290 of the one-ounce coins.

On Thursday, collectors will be offered 25,000 individual proof one-ounce gold Eagle coins plus another 18,000 in a four-coin proof set.

If every single one sells, that adds up to 43,000 coins.

That’s less than 10 percent of the number sold in 1986.

But even at this low number, the Mint marketing staff might be called overly optimistic in setting their mintage maximums.

The 2017 proof one-ounce has so far sold 18,464.

This is 42.9 percent of the 2018 maximum.

Perhaps the marketers were looking at the 2016 results when they made their plans for 2018.

The number of individual 2016 proof one-ounce coins sold is 24,071 plus another 17,270 in a four-coin set.

These add up to 41,341.

However, the 2016 pieces were special 30th anniversary issues.

That brings us right back to novelty.

The 2016 coins were not standard annual issues.

Yet even these are just pale shadows of the 1986 issue.

Eagles no longer represent the thrilling triumph of the return of regularly produced gold coins.

Prior to the gold Eagles in 1986, the last routinely struck gold coins were taken out of production in 1933.

The Mint had begun striking commemorative coins in gold in 1984, but these special issues are looked at differently by collectors.

Commemorative sales results today show hobbyists are even more tired of these than they are of proof gold Eagles.

Coins having no novelty seem to be condemned to low sales.

What that means is we can look forward to more coins like the gold Mercury dime, Standing Liberty quarter and Walking Liberty half dollar.

A gold Franklin half?

Gold Seated Liberty dollar?

Gold Sacagawea dollar?

They will all come eventually.

The Mint needs the novelty to make sales – even of gold.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper won the Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog for the third time in 2017 . He is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."

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