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Price of silver Eagle tells whole story

What’s it worth is probably the most frequently asked question in numismatics.

I’ll bet it even leads “What is it?”

Most people think a coin that is the same as another coin should be of equal value. This morning's exercise proves it in one case.

Let’s say you are interested in the 2016 uncirculated collector version of the silver American Eagle. It has a “W” mintmark on it to distinguish it from the regular bullion coin version sold through the Mint’s Authorized Purchaser network.

If you want to buy this coin, you can go to the U.S. Mint’s website and order it at a price of $44.95.

However, the coin is included in other sets.

If you buy the Ronald Reagan Coin and Chronicles Set you get an uncirculated silver Eagle as well as a reverse proof Presidential dollar with an “S” mintmark. There is also a medal in it.

Price of the set is $68.95.

If you believe the uncirculated silver Eagle is of equal value, you can back out the $44.95 price of an individual coin, leaving $24 to divide up between the reverse proof coin and the medal, which seems like fair value.

Another way to buy the 2016 uncirculated silver Eagle is in the Annual Uncirculated Dollar Coin Set.

It is priced at $49.95.

It also includes three uncirculated Presidential dollar coins and one uncirculated Native American coin.

If you back out $44.95 as the silver Eagle value, you get $5 to divide up among the four base metal dollar coins.

With this thinking, the Mint is practically giving them to you for face value, or $1.25 each.

That $1.25 is actually cheaper than the per-coin price of a roll of 25 dollar coins that cost $32.95 directly from the Mint.

It works out to $1.318 per coin.

For the 100-coin bag, each dollar coin is valued at $1.1195.

Buy the 250-coin bag and each coin costs $1.1038.

This exercise might seem pointless, until I mention that I was asked what a 2008 Uncirculated Dollar Coin Set was worth.

It has a set sales total of 98,896, which implies scarcity.

Yet the retail price is just $46.90.

This puts its price in the same neighborhood as the current uncirculated silver Eagle, plus four base metal dollar coins thrown in.

Shouldn’t a scarce set be priced according to the number packaged this way?

Here it definitely isn’t.

It is priced according to the value of the uncirculated silver Eagle in it with some base metal dollars thrown in.

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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