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The mode is gold

The uncirculated gold American Eagle goes on sale at the U.S. Mint website at noon Eastern Time today.

Last year’s offer did not do particularly well. Buyers took 8,822 of the 2011-dated pieces.

That’s a low number and it makes this year’s offer something worth looking into.

A one-ounce coin is very expensive to start with as it has $1,600 worth of gold in it.

Few collectors can afford to regularly buy such a coin, so it would have to be a truly special case to get them to do so. That is why last year’s total was so low.

Will collectors with their known bias for proofs over uncirculated coins consider the 2012 uncirculated gold American Eagle to be truly special?

Or, probably a better way to express it, at what mintage level will the specialists sit up and take notice?

That puts them in the position of rooting for another subdued response rate to this Mint offer, but that is the paradox of collecting.

What looks like a failure today is hot stuff in the future and what everybody wants today, few will want to pay extra for in the future.

I suppose I should kick myself for writing this far without asking how many collectors are actually actively interested in buying these coins for their hobby appeal rather than their speculative potential.

That should be the basic starting point for all collectors, but I find myself lapsing into speculator/investor mode more often than I should these days.

How about you?

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