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Are silver dollars really the preferred choice?

If collectors are given a choice between a commemorative silver dollar and a clad half dollar, which would they choose?

I have always simply assumed it was the dollar coin because it is made of silver.

A clad half dollar seems to have so much less prestige.

I ask the question after studying the latest sales results from the Boys Town program.

The Boys Town clad half dollar numbers are remarkably close to the silver dollar totals if you combine the proof and uncirculated numbers.

For the Boys Town silver dollar, the numbers are proof, 18,505 and uncirculated 8,690 for a total of 27,195.

For the clad half dollars, the numbers are 14,554 proofs and 13,319 uncirculateds.

The total is 27,873, remarkably similar to that of the dollar coins.

If we add in the numbers from the three-coin proof set, it boosts both sets of numbers by 4,570.

That puts the silver dollar total at 31,765 and the clad half total at 32,443.

These fairly identical totals cannot simply be written off as collectors buying one of each.

The proofs are strongly favored by the silver dollar buyers.

The total is 23,075 compared to 8,690, or 2.66 to 1.

Half dollar distribution is a little more even.

Proofs are 19,124 compared to 13,319 uncirculated.

That is 1.44 to 1.

So do half dollar buyers come out of hibernation when one of the infrequently offered commemorative 50-cent pieces goes on sale?

They then have a less strong preference for proof coins, with more perhaps buying one of each coin?

Could this be a matter of affordability?

The proof and clad half are priced at $26.95 and $25.95, respectively, or $52.90 if you buy one of each.

That figure is basically the cost of just one silver dollar.

The proof dollar is $52.95 and the uncirculated is $51.95.

So if you have roughly $50 to spend on any given program, clad half dollar buyers can get both proof and uncirculated coins while the silver dollar buyers must choose one or the other.

In the latter case, the proof then wins the showdown.

There are always those who can buy the whole set, or focus on the expensive gold, but even though their purchasing power speaks loudly, the $50 customers run up the sales numbers of the cheaper coins.

It would be interesting to see a breakdown of the number of Mint customers who never buy gold.

It would be of further interest to see if that $50 price point does in fact exist for them, or is just a figment of my imagination.

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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