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Silver medals win commemorative race

If I declare silver medals the wave of the future at the U.S. Mint, would you believe me?

I cannot help but come to this conclusion after comparing initial sales numbers for the World War I Centennial commemorative program and the Breast Cancer Awareness program.

Opening sales of the World War I coins realized $6,492,061.90.

Just reported opening sales for the Breast Cancer Awareness coins was $5,169,325.30.


World War I.


Move on, or assess why?

I chose to assess why.

The World War I program just had proof and uncirculated silver dollar coins to work with.

The Breast Cancer Awareness program has those as well as proof and uncirculated $5 gold pieces and half dollars.

This second commemorative program of the year has six coins, compared to two for the first one..

And the $5 has the gimmick of pink gold.

Novelty seekers will want to own the very first U.S. pink gold coin.

The secret weapon for the World War I program was five silver medals honoring the five military service branches.

Each medal was paired with a proof dollar and sold for $99.95 a set.

Initial sales for these sets brought the Mint $4,703,746.90 as collectors grabbed 47,061 of these sets at the opening of sales.

This is the highest category of sales for either program. Let's look at the other totals to see just how far ahead this category is.

A total of $1,298,178.50 was paid for 24,989 proof World War I dollars initially sold, priced at $51.95 each.

The uncirculated dollar, as might be expected, lagged with sales of 10,013 for $48.95 each. Total sales amounted to $490,136.35.

For Breast Cancer Awareness, the highest sales number is $2,425,237, generated by the proof $5.

It has a price of $431, which is more than four times the medal set or eight times the proof dollar price.

The sales figure was 5,627 gold coins.

The uncirculated gold $5 followed at $1,148,067. Price is $421. Sales number is 2,727.

For the proof Breast Cancer Awareness dollar, sales of 16,087 coins generated $835,719.65.

The uncirculated dollar sales of 6,607 coins realized $323,412.65.

Proof half dollars brought in $282,071.40 for 10,092 of them, priced at $27.95 each.

Uncirculated half dollars brought up the rear with $154,817.70 generated by sales of 5,966 coins priced at $25.95 each.

What’s the conclusion?

The obvious one is to say commemorative programs are pale shadows of their former selves.

However, given that these programs are likely to continue indefinitely, what should the Mint do with them?

The clear answer is to pair silver medals with the coins. This maximizes collector dollars flowing into their hands.

Will these comparisons hold up when sales of both programs are concluded at the end of the year?

That is a legitimate question.

Sales of World War I medals have already ended.

Sales of Breast Cancer Awareness gold has only just begun.

However, the answer is clear that in the first days of commemorative offers, silver medals are the winners.

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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