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Time for old theory to explain the present?

My first boss, Arnold Jeffcoat, had a number of topics that he would pull out to write about when all else failed. One of them was the competition posed by the U.S. Mint with regular coin dealers.

This was in the era when all that the Mint sold were proof sets, mint sets and generally ignored medals. I didn?t think the relatively low dollars involved amounted to enough to have much of an impact. I also knew there were people who bought exclusively from the U.S. Mint and from nobody else. These dollars either went to Washington, or they wouldn?t have been involved in numismatics at all.

I wonder what Jeffcoat would say nowadays about the Mint?s many sales programs. If there was any truth to the hypothesis that collector dollars going to the Mint came right out of the pockets of regular coin dealers, it is true in spades now.

The weekly Mint Statistics page isn?t big enough to list all of the many sales options that transfer collector dollars into the Mint?s account.

There has always been an appeal to the average collector?s heart about being able to buy something directly from the U.S. Mint. The U.S. Mint has exploited this appeal to offer more and more products over the years.

Even now, there is excitement as First Spouse gold coins are offered for sale. The mintage numbers seem low at 20,000 each for proofs and uncirculated. But even these are getting flavor-of-the-month reputations that pass out of favor and we have another 37 to go.

First Spouse coins are the glamor issue of the moment. Presidential First Day Covers, which are graded by third-party grading services, are another monthly flavor that are meeting their sales targets. Other offerings, though, seem to be panting.

The old tried and true modern commemorative issues this year are not doing particularly well, or particularly badly. The Jamestown commemorative silver dollars and gold $5s have sold a bit more than half the maximum possible. The Little Rock dollar has so far fared worse at less than a third of the maximum possible. And what?s up with the Coin and Medal set. There is a 25,000 maximum and it still isn?t sold out after being on the market since May? Can we say this sales template is getting tired?

Even with the Mint taking bullion coins off the market because market prices have been exceeding issue prices, the overall sales numbers don?t seem to reflect what is supposed to be a red hot precious metals market.

Have potential bullion buyers gotten smarter and more selective? Or are they sitting on bar stools in a warm climate like Ernest Hemingway once did wondering where life went?

I remember how 1979-1980 felt. This doesn?t feel the same at all. Does that mean the market is tired, or that it is still so early in the cycle that I am wrong to compare late 2007 to 1979?

Or is Jeffcoat right? Have so many collector dollars been taken out of the marketplace by the Mint that collectors haven?t as many to spend elsewhere in the market. What do you think?

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