By Louis Golino for CoinWeek ………
As was the case about this time last year, many U.S. Mint coins issued in the past year are selling out at a quick pace and creating quite a buzz in the modern coin collecting community. And sales of a number of coins from the past two years will end at the end of the year and are being promoted by the Mint through its last chance sale.
Unexpected sell-outs often stir up greater interest in modern Mint products, and this year’s coin sell-outs are a good example of that.
Probably the most interesting recent sell-out was the one for the 2013-W American Buffalo gold proof coin on December 9. All year people, including your columnist have been speculating about whether the 2013-W Buffalo reverse proof coin would draw buyers away from the regular proof coin. It is now clear that has indeed been the case.
What is especially interesting is the 2013 regular proof Buffalo, which I expected had a good chance of overtaking the 2012 coin as the second lowest mintage issue in the series after the 2008 coin, in fact has basically tied in mintage with the key date 2008 coin, which had a mintage of 18,863. As of December 8, the 2013 coin comes in a little lower at 18,555, which sets a new low. These numbers may change a little by the time the final auditedmintage is revealed most likely next year, but it appears the 2013 coin is the new king of proof Buffaloes.
It remains unclearat this point how much of a premium will be attached to the 2013 coin.. Many people believe there is a certain mystique surrounding many 2008 gold and platinum issues because so many new low mintages were set that year, but we will have to see what happens. One important consideration is values for the 2012 coin with a mintage of 19,765, which in raw form sells for about 50% over the cost of a common-date issue, or about $2300, and about $3,000 in PF-70. I suspect values for the 2013 coin will coalesce around $2500-$3,000 for the raw coin, or essentially in between the values of the 2008 and 2012 coins.
And of course future issues could certainly come in lower, but if spot gold remains on the low side next year I doubt we will see another mintage below 19,000 at least for a while, especially with only one proof Buffalo coming out.
The 2013-W American gold eagle in burnished uncirculated condition also sold out recently, but it sold more coins that last year’s coin, which remains the key to that series. The 2013 issue is now second lowest, and the 2011 one the third. It is not surprising that things worked out this way. Rather than a never-ending pattern of new lows, when one coin sets a substantial low, it often increases interest in the next year’s coin, which ends up with a higher mintage as a result. It will be interesting to see if this happens with the 2014 Buffalo proof coin.
The final numismatic 5-ounce silver America the Beautiful coin of the year for Mount Rushmore has gone into backorder status, which usually signals a sell-out is imminent. It does appear the Mint produced the full authorized maximum mintage of this coin, 25,000. As of December 8, 23,477 coins were sold. This represents the fastest sales of any coin since the series began in 2010, as the coin has only been on sale since November 7.
As I discussed in my last column , the high demand for this coin appears to come from a combination of the striking design of the coin, and the broad appeal of this particular national monument. It also does not hurt that it is the only coin in the series which has an image of President Washington on both sides. The only point of caution I would suggest is that so many buyers and dealers seem to have stocked up on this issue, which could mean too much supply later, but I am pretty confident there will be enough future collectors who need this coin to sustain demand for it.
Some other issues to keep an eye on include the 2013 U.S. Mint uncirculated set, which recently went into backorder status, and which is currently running lower than last year’s set, which became the modern key date set and which sells for about $65, or almost three times issue price.
Then there are some 2013 commemorative issues to watch. These include the $5 gold Five-Star General uncirculated coin and the clad half dollar, which like the $5 gold piece has gone into backorder for the uncirculated version. The proof version is also running lower than the key date 2011 Army clad proof half, but the uncirculated coin will have an even lower mintage.
It is true that if coins such as the clad half are not in high demand when available from the Mint, they logically should not become suddenly desirable once the coins are no longer sold by the Mint. And yet values for the 2011 Army coin have generally held quite steady for almost two years, especially for examples graded MS69 first strike by PCGS, and anyone who bought extra raw coins at issue price has done well. And I would not rule out a repeat performance with this year’s coins, as there is a difference of many thousand coins between the final 2011 mintages and current 2013 sales levels, and it is unlikely enough coins will be sold in the next three weeks to change that.
It is important to keep two things in mind if you are trying to speculate on these coins. First, backorder does not always mean the coin is about to sell out. It sometime means the Mint ran out of the coins it minted and decided to make more for additional orders. The other point is we have seen many times in the past that when a coin, such as the 2012 $5 gold Star-Spangled Banner uncirculated coin, appears to be on the verge of becoming a low mintage key coin, in that case the second lowest in the series after the Robinson $5 piece, there is often a flurry of last-minute orders that changes the equation. In terms of the 2012 gold coin that meant it came in as third lowest, and so far the coin has underperformed on the secondary market given its low mintage. So caution is advisable, especially as perceptions of what is low enough to really matter change.
If it were perfectly clear how these issues will shape up, it would not be as much fun trying to figure it all out, and everyone would be making lots of money speculating on low mintage coins. Instead, there is a guessing game that keeps things interesting. Your best bet is to stay as informed as possible as information is like money in all types of coin collecting.
Louis Golino is a coin collector and numismatic writer, whose articles on coins have appeared in Coin World, Numismatic News, a number of different coin web sites in addition to being a contributor to “American Hard Assets magazine”. His column for CoinWeek, “The Coin Analyst,” covers U.S. and world coins and precious metals. He collects U.S. and European coins and is a member of the ANA, PCGS, NGC, and CAC. He has also worked for the U.S. Library of Congress and has been a syndicated columnist and news analyst on international affairs for a wide variety of newspapers and web sites.