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Somebody likes new gold Buffalo

Imagine taking in nearly $21 million in half an hour.

That’s what the Mint did yesterday when the reverse proof American Buffalo one-ounce gold coin went on sale at noon Eastern Daylight Time.

Even better, I received no complaints from collectors about the Mint website or telephone order lines being back up.

Mint staff must be feeling pretty good right now.

In that 30 minutes of sales, the Mint sold 12,630 of the new coins, which celebrate the 100th anniversary of the popular Buffalo nickel design that was later adapted for use on gold coins.

The call center processed 300 orders and the website handled 2,341.

That works out to 4.78 coins per order, which at $1,640 per coin, is a very rich $7,839.20 per order.

Obviously, these were not likely coming from individuals who spend their time pulling Lincoln cents from their change for insertion in a coin album.

I expect these coins have an appointment already made for them with the top third-party grading services to garner coveted early release labels and hoped for Proof-69 and Proof-70 grades to go with them.

The profit motive is at work.

Coins with the proper designation might actually earn the owners a higher profit than the Mint gets from these coins.

Think about it. The price of an ounce of gold today is $1,309. Subtract that from the sales price of $1,640 and you get $331.

Today, that $331 is only 25 percent more expensive than the underlying bullion value and the Mint has to pay for all of the logistics of creating and then striking these beautiful coins from that figure.

How much easier it is to make $300 a coin by getting the proper third-party grading designation.

Perhaps the Mint ought to submit these coins to the grading services itself and offer tiered pricing to buyers.

Its profit margin would be far higher as a result, but it would deny collectors from participating in the lottery aspect of new coin issues.

On the other hand, perhaps that might be a good thing. I have had far too many complaints from collectors who miss out on getting early strikes or -70 grade designations.

To them, it's all the Mint’s fault and they are sullen, angry or both.

Since the Mint is unlikely to be flooded with thanks from collectors for a beautiful new coin, its staff will have to content themselves with milestones like this almost $21 million sales data point.


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