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Bullion prominent in Berlin

Is the bullion business taking over the World Money Fair?

Not really, but the entry area is looking more and more like prime real estate to firms whose primary goal is to sell precious metals to willing buyers.

Another good year in precious metals is expected by the head of the Austrian Mint. He said 2011 was a record year. This year the volume of precious metals blanks that he supplies is expected to rise by another 10 percent.

Since the Austrian Mint is already working 210 full-time employees and another 30 part-timers three shifts each day, I expect squeezing out a 10 percent increase in production is significant.

But it is not just bullion coins and blanks that are being snapped up by buyers. The Austrian Mint’s numismatic collector business is doing very well and circulating coin production also is contributing positively.

But I guess that is to be expected.

A Krause staffer witnessed a Chinese firm representative requesting 5,000 pieces of an Austrian Coin of the Year Award winning issue. Unfortunately, there no longer are 5,000 pieces to be had. Apparently the Coin of the Year Award is becoming better known in China and the coins that win it are in high demand among Chinese buyers.

After every annual Coin of the Year Award ceremony here in Berlin, I receive inquiries about the availability of the prize-winning coins, but not in such large quantities. It is nice to see the level of interest in these coins growing rapidly.

Bidders at the Kuenker auction are setting a lively pace. I was told by one auction attendee that a British 1826 proof set was bid to 55,000 euro. Prior to the sale, it would have been priced at something like $50,000. With the euro at $1.32, that means the auction price was about 50 percent higher than where the market was before the sale started.

When I flipped on German television, I saw gold coins being offered for sale. When I traveled the German subway yesterday, I saw a poster offering to buy or sell gold coins.

Clearly, the passion for bullion coins is still growing.

Tomorrow when the World Money Fair bourse opens, I will be able to find out how collector demand is doing in traditional coin collecting channels.

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