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Dawning of new silver Eagle age?

Little did I know when I wrote last year that the U.S. Mint should put the “S” mintmark on the silver American Eagle bullion coins that it had begun striking in San Francisco that we were entering a new chapter, perhaps even a new age, for the silver American Eagle.

The Mint did not take up my suggestion. All of the bullion coins struck at the West Coast facility in 2011 had no mintmark on them, making them indistinguishable from those struck at West Point once they were removed from their shipping containers.

Will collectors discover a marker of some kind to identify the 5 million S-mint coins, which obviously are scarcer than the 34.8 million struck at West Point?

I don’t know, but the effort currently being put into trying to find an identifying mark or characteristic on the 100,000 bullion coins struck without a mintmark in San Francisco for the 25th anniversary set is a strong indication of just how intense collector interest is in these new coins.

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Has the constant and sometimes radical shifting of the price of silver have you wondering how you can make a positive play in this market, and how to know if this is the time to do so?

How deep does this interest go?

Well, the Mint’s survey of Eagle buyers to determine whether there is interest in more mintmarked coins, including one from Denver, and more mintmarked proof coins in addition to the current “W,” looks like a signal that we are about to see a marriage of convenience.

The Mint needs money. Collectors need coins to collect.

How many types of new Eagles will collectors willingly swallow in the future? No one really knows.

I think I can safely say that the market is larger than what is achieved through the issuance of the “W” mintmarked proof and uncirculated collector coins. Buyers presently line up to take 850,000 proofs and 250,000 of the uncirculated pieces annually if we use demand for the 2011 coins as a guide.

Would collectors also accept annual W, D and S uncirculated American Eagle coins? W, D and S proofs? Annual reverse proofs with a “P” mintmark? All of the above? Collector budgets are not infinite. There is a limit. The question is how do we identify it?

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I think the scramble to buy the 25th anniversary set is a strong indication that there is room in the annual line-up for one or two more annual Eagle issues with sales numbers equivalent to current demand for the “W” uncirculated issue.

My reasoning? The Mint got collectors to spend $30 million on the 25th anniversary set. They have spent roughly $11 million at current prices on the 2011 uncirculated coin and $50 million on the 2011 proof. The Mint can probably convince many collectors to part with a good chunk of that one-shot $30 million on an annual basis if the new offerings are attractive.

Is that sufficient reason to try some new Eagle products?

I think so. During my career in numismatics collectors have been very fond of silver issues. I don’t expect that to change in future years. Presidential dollar proof sets are all well and good, but the average collector’s heart belongs to silver.

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