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Silver sales sag as clad moves along

Things can get a little topsy-turvy in numismatics during the summertime when many hobbyists are away on vacation. This has been brought home to me by two Mint-related bits of news.

Yesterday, the Mint eliminated order limits on the clad proof and uncirculated Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative half dollars.

Because of the quick sellout of the gold $5 and silver dollar baseball coins after they went on sale March 27, I had completely forgotten that there was an order limit for clads still in effect.

After all, the maximum clad mintage figure can be 750,000 and the Mint’s main problem of the past two decades has been trying to sell quantities of clad commemoratives that few collectors wanted.

The cupped baseball coins have certainly changed the dynamic with sales that are far higher than other recent clad offerings. But current clad sales figures show there is still a long way to go to reach 750,000.

Proof clad sales currently stand at 192,976 and the uncirculated clad half number is 111,229. The combined total of 304,205 is 445,795 short of potential.

The household order limit for the clad coins was 100 each for proofs and uncirculateds for a total of 200 coins. That is not exactly restrictive, but it is still a restriction.

Now you can place an order for 100,000 clad halves if you want to. I don’t expect a stampede.

The other number that feels a bit strange is that in the opening days of July the Mint has sold only 435,000 silver American Eagles. That’s about half the sales rate as when sales to Authorized Purchasers were rationed. This followed a weak June result.

Does that mean a simple sign on the Mint’s door saying supplies are rationed spur buyers to take twice as many coins as they otherwise would?

If that is the case, the Mint should announce rationing once again just to make sales rise for silver American Eagles.

Like I said at the beginning, it is summer and things can feel topsy-turvy. Rationed silver bullion coins and unlimited availability of clad coins that no one wants seems more the natural order of things. But instead we have had it the other way around in recent weeks.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is winner of the 2013 Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."