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Silver proofs gain ground

When will silver proof sets outsell clad proof sets?

Since the silver proofs debuted in 1992, clad sets have continued to dominate proof set sales, but the margin is getting narrower as more and more collectors seem to either be abandoning the field of proof sets, or rethinking what they want out of a proof set.

This year’s clad proof set went on sale April 1. Total sales since then stand at 286,281.

For the silver proof set, which went on sale April 18, sales stand at 207,002.

Since collectors buy the bulk of their purchases in the initial weeks of an offering, these two figures probably guarantee that 2016 sales will come nowhere near the 648,225 clad proof sets of 2015 sold to collectors and 374,208 of the 2015 silver proof set.

As the 2015 sales numbers stand, the silver proof set is at a level of 57.7 percent of the level of the sales of the clad set. The relationship so far in 2016 is the silver set total stands at 72.3 percent.

This tightening between the two numbers might be telling us something about the future.

Before I go further, I should point out that the weekly sales through June 5 for the clad set were 10,858 while the silver proof set number was 6,167.

Why look at this? It is because the relationship of the weekly numbers through June 5 shows silver proof set sales running at a rate of 56.8 percent, a statistical tie with the 2015 overall sales relationship.

What that probably means is the 2016 silver proof set figure will lose some ground from its current 72.3 percent as sales of both proof sets continue throughout the rest of the sales period.

However, it also means that the final number that we will learn next year cannot be as low as the present 2015 relationship where silver proof set sales are 57.7 percent of the clad proof sets.

Those of a statistical mind, will appreciate these figures.

Others who want to get to the meat of the matter will focus on the possibility that silver proof sets will soon outsell clad proof sets.

It likely won’t happen in 2016, nor perhaps even in 2017, but by 2018 we might see silver proof set sales take the lead.

Why would this be when the silver set is so much more expensive at $52.95 to the clad set’s cost of $31.95?

I think there are a number of reasons involved

The primary one is that more and more clad proof set buyers are deciding that the lower cost might not actually be the best long-term value.

Silver proof sets with lower mintages have a leg up on the rarity scale.

Many collectors have believed since 1965 that silver coins are more beautiful than clad.

With precious metal in the silver set, there is a boost to long-term value, especially if you believe silver will be higher in 10, 20 or 30 years.

This does not mean that silver proof sets are somehow in their heyday. They are not. In 1992 over 1 million sets were sold. The second year in 1993 had sales of over 570,000.

But silver proof sets will lose ground more slowly than the clad sets as collector tastes continue to change in favor of precious metal coinage, especially large silver ones.

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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