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Tale of two numbers

Which Mint figure is more important?

Monthly circulating coin production in July rose to the highest point of the year. 1,807,200,000 pieces came off the Mint's presses.

This beats the previous high number of 1,582,060,000 by 225,140,000 pieces.

Normally, rising circulating coin production is indicative of an improving economy. Output is calibrated by the Mint to orders from the Federal Reserve.

The Fed supplies coins to the nation’s banks, which in turn supply them to the many retail businesses that use cash. Demand for cash, coins and notes, rises as the number of transactions rise.

Another July number reflected a collapse in demand for silver American Eagle bullion coins.

The July figure of 1,370,000 coins is far below the previous worst month of 2016, which was June at 2,837,500.

Worse, August sales so far have come it at 380,000 silver Eagles. This sales pace would get us to roughly 760,000 for the entire month.

Do silver coin buyers see something ahead that makes them pause? It could simply be an expectation that silver bullion might come down from its current lofty perch around $20 a troy ounce.

Such behavior then could be called a market consolidation, or a breather, or any other description that implies a rest in the demand up trend.

Such demand restraint also indicates that expectations of immediate economic calamity are falling.

Or fewer silver Eagle sales could indicate that the many average Americans who buy them are saving their cash or using it for some other purpose.

Such tight-fistedness could spring from many causes other than price sensitivity.

However, since the circulation coin production indicates an upward moving economy, the market consolidation explanation for silver Eagle demand seems to be the correct one.

To answer my initial question as to which figure is more important, I would have to say neither one is more important than the other. The two complement each other. They offer a better interpretation of current conditions together than either one does by itself.

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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