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Silver set teaches two lessons

The good news for owners of the 2012 American Eagle San Francisco Two-Coin Silver Proof Set sold by the U.S. Mint is the just announced near final sales number of 224,981 is 26,321 sets lower than the preliminary 251,302 figure previously used by the Mint.

That means the sets are scarcer than originally thought.

The bad news for owners of the sets is this reduction is unlikely to be significant enough to have any impact on current prices on the secondary market.

Collectors who missed the original order period that ran June 7 to July 5 can order a set from advertisers in Numismatic News for $195 each.

That’s certainly a higher price than the $149.95 they would have paid to the Mint, but if original buyers had purchased sets in hopes of selling them at a profit on the secondary market, that chance is now gone. The current price difference is not wide enough to yield a profit to original buyers who have held onto them.

Only for coins in the set that graded out at the top end of the 70-point grading scale did some profits flow to their buyers. And the earlier that these were received and sold, the better.

There are logical reasons to examine this new sales figure in greater detail.

The two-coin set features an “S” mintmarked proof silver American Eagle and an “S” mintmarked reverse proof American Eagle.

When the U.S. Mint announced that the regular “S” proof Eagle would also be available in the Making History Coin and Currency Set, some collectors who had ordered the two-coin set were still in a position to cancel their orders.

Some apparently did. The 26,321 reduction is a greater than usual difference between a preliminary sales number and one that is close to being final – but the Mint does point out the new number at this point is unaudited.

What that means is the Mint lost approximately $4 million in revenue because of the announcement of the Making History set.

That kind of hit is significant even to an organization of the Mint’s size.

I’d hate to be the one to say, “Gee, Boss, we lost $4 million that we thought we had.”

What are the consequences?

Perhaps better planning, or better basic decision-making by the Mint and by collectors.

Collectors believed at the June 5 sales opening date of the two-coin set that it would be the only way to get the “S” mint proofs even though the Mint had not stated that this was the case.

For the Mint, the lesson is: “Know your market.”

For collectors, the lesson is: “Don’t assume.”

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