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Weak or strong medal sales?

The first couple of days’ worth of sales of the new 9/11 silver medal saw collectors take 35,036 of them from the U.S. Mint.

As of 1:30 p.m. yesterday, the Mint reported that collectors had opted for 21,256 “W” mintmarked medals and 13,780 of the “P” version.

If the medal were a coin, I would remark that demand is pretty bad, but because it is a medal, I have to say not bad.

There is a decided preference by collectors for coins over medals even if the medal is absolutely identical in every way save for an expression of face value.

That’s why the American Arts Gold Medallions of 1980-1984 gave way to American Eagle bullion coins in 1986.

Even though the American Arts pieces were nice even troy weights of half ounce and one ounce, collector interest declined after some reasonably respectable sales totals in the early years.

Declining gold prices during that period didn’t help. Even American Eagle sales decline when the price of bullion suffers a long period of weakness.

If you compare initial sales of the 9/11 silver medal to the mountainous 2 million that the Mint is authorized to strike, you probably conclude as I do that the Mint will not be able to sell that many.

How many can the Mint sell?

I expect that will depend on the marketing, the price relative to the underlying price of silver bullion over time and how people will react when the actual Sept. 11 anniversary arrives.

It is summer now. It is a little early in the program. While collector attitudes might harden against it in the next few weeks, there is still the vast public who might be persuaded to buy one.

If ever there was a Mint program that might have an appeal to non-collectors, this is it.

If I start seeing advertisements for these on cable television, I will know the Mint is recognizing the opportunity.