May 29, 2024

US Mint Suspends Production of More Gold and Silver Coins

The United States Mint has officially announced the suspension of another slate of gold and silver products. The affected products are 2009 dated American Gold and Silver Eagle coins produced for collectors. These coins are considered collectible versions of the bullion coins.

Although these are collectible coins, they represent a sizable amount of precious metals sales and represent a method of gold and silver investment for many individuals. Last year, the US Mint sold 1,157,911 ounces of silver in the form of Silver Eagle coins minted for collectors. They also sold 155,740 ounces of gold in the form of Gold Eagle and Gold Buffalo coins minted for collectors.

The following message was posted on the US Mint’s website in the space where the collectible Gold Eagle coins typically appear. The proof coins has been offered uninterrupted since 1986. The uncirculated version has been offered since 2006.

Production of United States Mint American Eagle Gold Proof and Uncirculated Coins has been temporarily suspended because of unprecedented demand for American Eagle Gold Bullion Coins. Currently, all available 22-karat gold blanks are being allocated to the American Eagle Gold Bullion Coin Program, as the United States Mint is required by Public Law 99-185 to produce these coins “in quantities sufficient to meet public demand . . . .”

The United States Mint will resume the American Eagle Gold Proof and Uncirculated Coin Programs once sufficient inventories of gold bullion blanks can be acquired to meet market demand for all three American Eagle Gold Coin products. Additionally, as a result of the recent numismatic product portfolio analysis, fractional sizes of American Eagle Gold Uncirculated Coins will no longer be produced.

A similar message is posted in the section where collectible American Silver Eagle coins would typically appear. The proof coins have also been offered uninterrupted since 1986 and the uncirculated coins since 2006.

Production of United States Mint American Eagle Silver Proof and Uncirculated Coins has been temporarily suspended because of unprecedented demand for American Eagle Silver Bullion Coins. Currently, all available silver bullion blanks are being allocated to the American Eagle Silver Bullion Coin Program, as the United States Mint is required by Public Law 99-61 to produce these coins “in quantities sufficient to meet public demand . . . .”

The United States Mint will resume the American Eagle Silver Proof and Uncirculated Coin Programs once sufficient inventories of silver bullion blanks can be acquired to meet market demand for all three American Eagle Silver Coin products.

This adds to the lengthy list of 2009 dated precious metals products that have been “temporarily delayed” or suspended by the US Mint. In my previous post Actions of the US Mint Discourage Gold Ownership, I mentioned the delayed release of 2009 Gold Eagle fractional coins, 2009 Gold Buffalo coins, and all 2009 Platinum Eagle coins. The delay, which was first announced in November 2008, continues with no further explanation provided.

For those keeping track, here is a list of the US Mint’s 2009 precious metals products that have been “temporarily delayed” or suspended:

  • 2009 American Gold Eagle 1/2 oz. (bullion)
  • 2009 American Gold Eagle 1/4 oz. (bullion)
  • 2009 American Gold Eagle 1/10 oz. (bullion)
  • 2009 American Platinum Eagle 1 oz. (bullion)
  • 2009 American Platinum Eagle 1/2 oz. (bullion)
  • 2009 American Platinum Eagle 1/4 oz. (bullion)
  • 2009 American Platinum Eagle 1/10 oz. (bullion)
  • 2009 American Gold Buffalo 1 oz. (bullion)
  • 2009-W Proof American Gold Eagle 1 oz. (collector)
  • 2009-W Proof American Gold Eagle 1/2 oz. (collector)
  • 2009-W Proof American Gold Eagle 1/4 oz. (collector)
  • 2009-W Proof American Gold Eagle 1/10 oz. (collector)
  • 2009-W Proof American Gold Eagle 4 Coin Set (collector)
  • 2009-W Uncirculated American Gold Eagle 1 oz. (collector)
  • 2009-W Proof American Silver Eagle (collector)
  • 2009-W Uncirculated American Silver Eagle (collector)

In addition, the following precious metals related products were discontinued by the US Mint for 2009. These discontinuations were announced in November 2008. Amidst the environment of unprecedented demand for precious metals, the US Mint determined that these products were “unpopular.”

  • Uncirculated American Gold Eagle 1/2 oz. (collector)
  • Uncirculated American Gold Eagle 1/4 oz. (collector)
  • Uncirculated American Gold Eagle 1/10 oz. (collector)
  • Unriculated American Gold Eagle 4 Coin Set (collector)
  • Uncirculated American Gold Buffalo 1 oz. (collector)
  • Uncirculated American Gold Buffalo 1/2 oz. (collector)
  • Uncirculated American Gold Buffalo 1/4 oz. (collector)
  • Uncirculated American Gold Buffalo 1/10 oz. (collector)
  • Unriculated American Gold Buffalo 4 Coin Set (collector)
  • Proof American Gold Buffalo 1/2 oz. (collector)
  • Proof American Gold Buffalo 1/4 oz. (collector)
  • Proof American Gold Buffalo 1/10 oz. (collector)
  • Proof American Gold Buffalo 4 Coin Set (collector)
  • Uncircualted American Platinum Eagle 1 oz. (collector)
  • Uncircualted American Platinum Eagle 1/2 oz. (collector)
  • Uncircualted American Platinum Eagle 1/4 oz. (collector)
  • Uncircualted American Platinum Eagle 1/10 oz. (collector)
  • Uncircualted American Platinum Eagle 4 Coin Set (collector)
  • Proof American Platinum Eagle 1/2 oz. (collector)
  • Proof American Platinum Eagle 1/4 oz. (collector)
  • Proof American Platinum Eagle 1/10 oz. (collector)
  • Proof American Platinum Eagle 4 Coin Set (collector)

That makes a total of 38 precious metals products which have been delayed, suspended, or discontinued by the US Mint.

As it currently stands, investors or collectors looking to purchase newly minted American Eagle or American Buffalo precious metals products have only two options available. These are the 2009 1 oz. American Gold Eagle and the 2009 1 oz. American Silver Eagle. Both of these products continue to be subject to rationing.

2008 US Mint Gold, Silver & Platinum Bullion Coin Sales

With the dust somewhat settled for the prior year, we now have some complete US Mint sales data on sales of gold, silver, and platinum bullion coins. As expected, the numbers show some large percentage increases from prior year sales. In particular silver bullion sales reached an all time record high with sales of nearly 20 million ounces.

While the bullion coin sales figures go a long way to highlighting the immense demand for physical precious metals experienced in 2008, it’s only part of the picture. These strong numbers were achieved amidst periodic suspensions and rationing programs which impacted all bullion coin programs at one point or another during the year.

Sales of silver bullion coins were suspended on February 4, 2008 and again on March 19. Sales were resumed more than one month later on April 21, but on a rationed basis. Similarly, gold bullion coin sales were suspended and then resumed on a rationed basis. And finally, sales of some platinum and gold coins were ended prematurely, prior to the end of the year.

2008 US Mint Gold Bullion Coin Sales

Coins Ounces
1 oz Gold Eagle 794,000 794,000
1/2 oz Gold Eagle 50,000 25,000
1/4 oz Gold Eagle 58,000 14,500
1/10 oz Gold Eagle 270,000 27,000
1 oz Gold Buffalo 171,500 171,500
Total 1,343,500 1,032,000

The US Mint sells a 22 karat gold coin known as the American Gold Eagle. This coin is sold as a one ounce coin as well as in 1/4 ounce, 1/2 ounce and 1/10 ounce fractional denominations. The US Mint also sells a 24 karat one ounce gold coin known as the American Gold Buffalo. Gold Eagles have been sold since 1986 and Gold Buffaloes have been sold since 2006.

Across all options, the US Mint sold 1,032,000 ounces of gold through its bullion coin programs in 2008. This represented a jump of more than 78% from last year’s combined total of 577,000 ounces of gold. Notably, the total for 2008 is still far from the all time high of 2,055,500 ounces reached in 1999.

2008 US Mint Silver Bullion Coin Sales

Coins Ounces
1 oz. Silver Eagle 19,583,500 19,583,500

The US Mint sells a one ounce silver bullion coin known as the American Silver Eagle. These bullion coins have been sold since 1986.

For 2008, the US Mint reached an all time record for ounces of silver sold through their bullion program at 19,583,500 ounces. This represents a 98% increase from last year’s sales of 9,887,000 ounces of silver. The previous record for ounces of silver sold through the US Mint’s bullion coin program was set in 2002 with 10,475,500.

2008 US Mint Platinum Bullion Coin Sales

Coins Ounces
1 oz. Platinum Eagle 20,800 20,800
1/2 oz. Platinum Eagle 12,800 6,400
1/4 oz. Platinum Eagle 20,800 5,200
1/10 oz. Platinum Eagle 13,000 1,300
Total 67,400 33,700

The US Mint sells 99.95% platinum bullion coins known as the American Platinum Eagle. These coins are available in one ounce as well as 1/2 ounce, 1/4 ounce, and 1/10 ounce fractional sizes. The platinum bullion coins have been offered since 1997.

During 2008, the US Mint sold 33,700 ounces of platinum through their bullion program. This was up 272% from last year’s platinum bullion coin sales of 9,050 ounces. The all time record for platinum bullion sales by the US Mint was 175,650. This record was set in 1998 when platinum was significantly cheaper.

US Mint Unveils New Pricing Policy

The US Mint unveiled a new pricing policy which covers all Gold and Platinum Numismatic Products. This pricing policy does not refer to any of the bullion offerings, but only the numismatic products which the US Mint sells to coin collectors. The new policy represents a significant shift in the handling of collectible coins with precious metals content.

The US Mint cites “fluctuating gold and platinum commodity costs” as the reason for the change.

In the past, the US Mint has announced prices for products one to two weeks prior to release. The pricing was presumably based on the market price of the precious metals content plus production costs and a profit margin. This initial price could only be adjusted via publication of new pricing in the Federal Register. Since this process takes time, price changes were preceded by sometimes lengthy suspension periods. Even during the most volatile years for precious metals, prices were changed only three to four times at most.

The US Mint’s new pricing policy will allow them to change prices as frequently as once per week. Price levels would be set based on the average weekly price of gold based on London Fix prices for the preceding week, Thursday to Wednesday. If the average price moves across certain thresholds, prices will be adjusted up or down on Thursday at 10:00 AM ET. The new policy will go into effect January 12, 2009.

This is a significant change of policy that will make numismatic products seem more like bullion products, albeit with very high premiums. It will be interesting to see how this new policy sits with coin collectors and whether there will be any kinks in the implementation.

Below is the text of the US Mint’s notification published in the Federal Register.

[Federal Register: January 6, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 3)]
[Notices]
[Page 493-496]

DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY

United States Mint

Notification of New Pricing Methodology for Numismatic Products
Containing Platinum and Gold Coins

SUMMARY: The United States Mint is implementing a new pricing methodology for its numismatic products containing platinum and gold coins to mitigate the effect that fluctuating gold and platinum commodity costs has on the pricing of these products. The new pricing methodology is based primarily on the London Fix weekly average (average of the London Fix prices covering the previous Thursday a.m. Fix through the Wednesday a.m. Fix) platinum and gold prices, which reflect the market value of the platinum and gold bullion that these products contain. As required by law, the prices of these products also must be sufficient to recover all other costs incurred by the United States Mint, such as the cost of minting, marketing, and distributing such products (including labor, materials, dies, use of machinery, and promotional and overhead expenses). This pricing methodology will allow the United States Mint to change the prices of these products as often as weekly so they better reflect the costs of platinum and gold on the open markets.

DATES: The new pricing methodology, as further explained in the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section, will go into effect on January 12, 2008.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Pursuant to the authority that 31 U.S.C. 5111(a)(3), 5112(i), 5112(k), 5112(o), and 5112(q) grant the Secretary of the Treasury to mint and issue gold and platinum coins and to prepare and distribute numismatic items, the United States Mint sells to the public numismatic products containing American Eagle Gold and Platinum Coins, American Buffalo Gold Coins, First Spouse Gold Coins, and the 2009 United States Mint Ultra High Relief Double Eagle Gold Coin. In accordance with 31 U.S.C. 9701 31 U.S.C. 9701(b)(2)(B), the United States Mint is changing the prices of these coins to reflect a new methodology in pricing.

Effective January 12, 2009, the United States Mint will commence selling numismatic products containing American Eagle Gold and Platinum Coins, American Buffalo Gold Coins, First Spouse Gold Coins, and the 2009 United States Mint Ultra High Relief Double Eagle Gold Coin at prices established by using the new pricing methodology. Specifically, each Wednesday, the United States Mint will apply the average London Fix for platinum and gold (average of the London Fix prices covering the previous Thursday A.M. Fix through the Wednesday A.M. Fix) to the below pricing schedules. Price adjustments as a result of this process, if any, will be effective at 10 a.m. E.S.T. on the immediately following Thursday.

The pricing charts included with the release follow. Click for large version.


US Mint Makes Drastic Cuts to Collector Gold & Platinum Coin Offerings

Today the United States Mint announced some sweeping cuts to the number of products that they will offer to coin collectors. The deepest cuts take place in the US Mint’s offerings of collectible versions of gold and platinum bullion coins.

Most people know about the US Mint’s bullion coin offerings. American Eagle coins composed of gold, silver, and platinum are sold to the public through a network of authorized bullion dealers. In recent years, American Buffalo Gold coins were added to the lineup. These coins are bought and sold primarily as a means of investing in precious metals.

Since 2006, the US Mint has also offered so-called “collectible” versions of the popular bullion coins for sale directly to the public. The coins have been available in fractional denominations, four coin sets, and one ounce sizes. They are differentiated from the “non-collectible” bullion versions by carrying a “W” mint mark. The coins are also struck on specially burnished blanks and come in custom Mint packaging.  In addition, the US Mint has offered proof versions of bullion coins, which have been sold to collectors for many years.

The US Mint’s discontinued products (via Mint News Blog) will include:

  • American Buffalo Uncirculated Gold Coins – These are the collectible versions offered by the US Mint. All fractional denominations, 4 coin set, and the one ounce coin will be discontinued.
  • American Buffalo Proof Gold Coins – The fractional 1/2 oz, 1/4 oz, 1/10 oz coins and 4 coin set will be discontinued.
  • American Platinum Eagle Uncirculated Coins – These are the collectible versions offered by the US Mint. All fractional denominations, 4 coin set, and the one ounce coin will be discontinued.
  • American Platinum Eagle Proof Coins – The fractional 1/2 oz, 1/4 oz, 1/10 oz coins and 4 coin set will be discontinued.
  • American Gold Eagle Uncirculated Coins – These are the collectible versions offered by the US Mint. The fractional 1/2 oz, 1/4 oz, 1/10 oz coins and 4 coin set will be discontinued.

Why are these products being discontinued?

The US Mint would likely cite low sales figures for the offerings, but that doesn’t get to the root of the problem. Basically, the US Mint has had a disastrous time selling the products over the past few years. This was due in large part to the way the US Mint was required to set prices combined with the extreme fluctuations of precious metals prices over the past few years.

The US Mint is required to publish prices for upcoming collectible coin products in the Federal Register. This process seems to take about 30 days. As a result, every time these pseudo-bullion coins went on sale, prices were based on precious metals values from up to 30 days ago.  Any time the US Mint wanted to change prices, coin sales had to be suspended for at least 30 days while the publication process took place.

Throughout 2006 and 2007, sales of these “collectible” bullion coins were suspended numerous times as precious metals prices climbed. Premiums above the precious metal value were in constant flux, since coin prices were fixed and precious metals changed. Typically, premiums would be high at the start of sales, but then lower as precious metals prices climbed. If you timed your purchases right, you could buy the coins for around the same price as the regular bullion coins.

During 2008, the “collectible” bullion offerings were priced early in the year when precious metals prices were at their highs. As precious metals prices dropped from their peaks, coin prices remained the same, making premiums extraordinarily high. For example, the 2008-W 1 oz. Uncirculated American Gold Eagle is currently priced at $1,119.95 (see US Mint website).  Compare this to the gold value of $742. This premium is ridiculously high for a product slightly better than a bullion coin.

The only prices that were actually lowered this year were for the platinum products. Following nearly two months of suspension, platinum coins returned with prices approximately halved. Even after the reduction, prices still reflected huge premiums. The 2008-W 1 oz. Uncirculed Platinum Eagle is priced at $1,214.95 (see US Mint website). Compare this to the platinum value of $837. Another ridiculously high premium.

On the upside, this represents the end of a bad experiment in precious metals products from the US Mint. On the downside, this represents one less way for people to acquire precious metals.