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Why did silver Eagle sales drop?

Sales of American Eagle bullion coins have fallen in 2012 compared to 2011.

Buyers of silver American Eagle bullion coins in the first eight months of the year purchased 22.14 percent fewer than in the same period in 2011.

In 2011 the total was 28,951,000 pieces sold while in 2012 it is 22,540,000.

On the positive side, that means the Mint has not had to ration supply. The negative side might simply be the question of why the decline?

Have economic conditions improved by 22 percent in the past year and bullion buyers are feeling a little more comfortable?

Do lower sales indicate a reduction in expectation of a significant increase in the silver bullion price going forward?

It could be none of the above. Last year could be the outlier. Silver almost had returned to its $50-an-ounce peak in April and buyer enthusiasm perhaps had gotten ahead of reality.

The 22,540,000 quantity is not a small number. The eight-month sales figure is a larger one than the 20,583,000 sold in the entire crisis year of 2008.

Silver Eagle sales are often taken as an indicator of what average people are thinking about. Average people seem to still be avid silver buyers.

Then there is the one-ounce gold American Eagle.

It has had a far worse year in 2012 compared to 2011. Sales in the first eight months are down by 48.33 percent at 347,500 coins compared to 672,500.

Perhaps that’s the number bullion bulls should worry about.

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