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When close doesn't count

Next week on May 15 the 5-ounce Shenandoah National Park P-mintmark uncirculated collector version will go on sale at the U.S. Mint website.

This is the second of the 2014 America the Beautiful designs to become available.

Because early demand for the first 2014 design was so high, it seemed like a wave of renewed collector interest was going to carry these coins to domino-like sellouts one after another.

It doesn’t look so cut and dried anymore.

The first design, which came close to selling out its 25,000 maximum mintage in just days after it became available April 7, so far has not reached that goal.

The 2014-P Great Smoky Mountains National Park 5-ouncer is still available.

In the latest week, 101 coins have been purchased by collectors. This brings the total number sold to 23,596, which is 1,404 short of a sellout. Only 2,181 coins have been sold in three weeks.

While close may count in the fame of horseshoes, it does nothing for collector buying psychology. It is either a sellout, or it isn’t.

One month of availability for the Great Smoky Mountains coin has eroded any sense of momentum that might have existed among collectors.

When the second design becomes available next week, it will no longer be the case of one sellout followed by another as eager buyers clamor for a newly popular coin.

Instead early buyers and Mint subscriber discount buyers might again propel the initial sales number for the Shenandoah coin to over 20,000 to end up close to the initial 21,415 of the Smoky coin.

If it happens this way, this would be less a signal of a sellout to come, and more a tribute to Mint planning in setting a maximum mintage figure that closely mirrors collector interest.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is winner of the 2013 Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."