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Saint-Gaudens on your purchase list?

Today the U.S. Mint will begin selling the 2009 Ultra-High-Relief gold $20 to collectors at a price of $1,189.

As Coins Magazine editor Bob Van Ryzin remarked in a meeting this week, he is surprised it is so low. With gold at roughly $850 a troy ounce, collectors are paying an additional $339 for the incredible Saint-Gaudens artwork.

That’s less than a 50 percent markup, roughly 40 percent, to be more precise. In the world coin market, the rule of thumb is any gold collector coin is at least double the value of the gold in it.

Of course, collectors are not in the habit of thanking the Mint for its prices. For collectors, we have a habit that if something isn’t free, we want a discount of at least 10 percent, more if we can negotiate it.

Some early buyers will get the coins rapidly, but because of the ongoing shortage of gold coin blanks, the Mint warns that some buyers might wait as long as nine months for delivery. There is a limit of one coin per household to spread the supply around.

Potential delivery delays are unfortunate, but they are a by-products of the incredible worldwide demand for gold bullion coins. This has put pressure on the world’s blank producers that the U.S. Mint and other mints depend on.

The Ultra-High-Relief will demonstrate the commitment that Augustus Saint-Gaudens and his patron, President Theodore Roosevelt, had to improve the look of U.S. coinage and bring it more in line with the standards of the ancient Greeks.

Unfortunately, that plan was spoiled by the needs of bankers and commerce generally to have coins that are stackable.

So, the coin that wasn’t produced in 1907 will be available later today at the Mint's Web site,

Will you be a buyer?