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Silver Eagle demand falls behind gold Eagle

Where are the silver American Eagle buyers this year?

I have asked this question before, but now with the closing weeks of 2016 upon us, it is quite obvious that there is no way last year’s 47 million sales number can be equaled, let alone bettered.

As of this morning, the Mint has reported sales of the one-ounce coin standing at 35,045,500.

That is certainly a large number.

At $20 apiece, this is over $700 million worth of bullion. However, as large as it is, the sales total is 11,954,500 short of last year’s figure.

This means for every four silver Eagles sold last year, the Mint has vended three this year.

In percentage terms, the current number is down by 25 percent.

The year is not finished. This gap will shrink in the next few weeks.

But we all know that December is a month that is for selling leftovers as the Mint cranks out coins to stockpile for 2017’s opening weeks of sales

Let’s just say last year’s record will still be a record when the books are closed on results.

This decline in silver Eagle demand has come at a time of rising demand for its kindred gold Eagles.

Sales of the one-ounce gold Eagle are up 12 percent from 2015’s full-year total.

A similar performance by buyers of silver Eagles would have put sales of the one-ounce coin at a record number of 52,640,000. And it would still be increasing.

Do bullion buyers see the future of gold as being brighter than that for silver?

Rational investors are always forward looking. They buy what they think will perform better.

They are not abandoning silver, but are allocating their investment dollars differently compared to last year.

Coin collectors are famously known as getting older.

Does the demographic for silver buyers resemble that for coin collectors?

If it does, lack of new silver Eagle purchases could be more a matter of the stage of life the owners are in.

It has been 15 years since silver bottomed out after its $50 1980 high.

Anyone who has ridden the boom higher is 15 years older.

A lot changes in 15 years.

Kids go to college. Daughters get married. Retirement arrives.

Even a simple desire to stop and smell the roses could lead to allocating funds away from silver investments.

What is the correct answer?

That is something that can change daily, along with the markets, although the 2016 performance is pretty well set.

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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