Smart silver Eagle buyers, not so smart Mint?

Congratulations are once again in order to all those silver American Eagle bullion coin buyers who stopped or reduced their purchases this year.

Silver bullion is trading today below where it ended 2016.

When I checked the Kitco website, it was $ 15.91 a troy ounce.

It closed last year at $ 15.936.

Add the normal coin premium to a purchase price and the loss is even larger for anyone who purchased these coins in January to get the new 2017 date.

For a collector buying one or two coins for his or her set, this is nothing.

It is a blip.

It cannot compete with the sense of satisfaction of getting a new date quickly.

However, for investors buying quantities, this is utterly disappointing on a short-term basis.

Since it became obvious in February that Eagle buyers have pulled back, I have been asking what they know that I don’t.

I still haven’t figured it.

Sales in January were 5,127,500, followed by 1,215,000 in February, 1,615,000 in March, 835,000 in April, 2,455,000 in May and now 986,000 in June.

In the first half of the year, buyers took a total of 12,233,500 silver Eagles.

If this sales pace continues, by the end of the year the U.S. Mint will have sold 24,467,000.

This has to be of great concern to the Mint.

Part of its bragging rights are tied up in selling the hugely popular silver Eagle bullion coin.

This projected sales number of less than 25 million means the Mint is looking at a sales decline of 35 percent for the year.

Yikes. Last year the decline was almost 20 percent.

Is the pace accelerating?

In May, it looked like the buyers’ strike was coming to an end.

If June had popped back to 3 million, things would look very different now.

But sales didn’t pop back.

The Mint has a problem.

Perhaps it should consider a major advertising campaign.

For too many years, bullion sales at the Mint simply involved handing as many coins as it could produce to its Authorized Purchasers.

That is no longer true.

It should get cracking.

Unfortunately, it probably won’t.

Bullion silver Eagle sales could jump again anyhow.

But is this possibility something on which to base a business plan?

I expect the Mint doesn’t know why buyers have pulled back this year any more than I do.

But it should.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper has twice won the Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper “Numismatic News.”

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