Skip to main content

Silver resting or losing steam?

In April will come the second anniversary of silver’s near miss in regaining its 1980 price record of $50 an ounce.

The present price is $31.13 a troy ounce, which is roughly the level from which it began its 2011 assault on the record.

Will the metal try again this year?

That is a question on the minds of many collectors and investors.

What conclusions can be drawn from early demand for 2013 American Eagle bullion coins?

On the positive side, buyers took a record 7,498,000 1-ounce silver American Eagle bullion coins in January. The purchasing stampede was so intense that the Mint ran out of coins for 11 days during the month and began rationing the supply when sales resumed.

An initial burst of demand is not a surprise. It happens every year as collectors want to acquire the new date and investors seem to want to do the same. The magnitude of this sales burst was the surprise.

February sales of the silver American Eagle bullion coins stand at 1,438,500, which is clearly lower than the January sales pace but this number is distorted by the Mint’s rationing of supply.

A clue to what's happening might be provided by demand for gold American Eagle bullion coins. Demand for gold and silver bullion coins often runs in tandem.

Gold American Eagles set a record in January as well at 124,500 1-ounce coins. If you add the demand for the fractional coins, the Mint sold 150,000 ounces of gold in January.

February gold American Eagle sales have also fallen from the January pace. Buyers have taken 32,000 1-ounce coins, or 36,000 ounces if we add in the fractional sizes.

These numbers are not distorted by rationing, so clearly demand is falling off.

What’s the conclusion?

Unless some crisis event reignites demand, it looks likely that silver will pass the second anniversary of its attempt to set a new price record at a point below the 2011 highs.

But there are another eight months to the year after that. They will likely prove whether silver is merely resting or the uptrend is losing steam.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."