December 2, 2022

American Silver Eagle Bullion Coin Sales Soar To All Time Record High

With two days remaining in the month of January, U.S. Mint sales of the American Silver Eagle bullion coins have already established an all time record high.   The latest numbers from the Mint show total sales of 7,420,000 silver bullion coins as January 29, 2013.  Total sales during January 2012 amounted to 6,107,000 coins.  During January 2011 (the previous monthly record high for silver bullion coin sales) the Mint sold 6,422,000 coins.

The public demand for silver seems insatiable.  To put the unprecedented demand for silver into perspective, prior to the financial crisis of  2008, total yearly sales of the silver bullion coin averaged only about 9.5 million coins per year.  With the Federal Reserve furiously printing money to keep the financial system glued together, investor demand for both physical silver and gold bullion is likely to increase dramatically.

The US Mint has been unable to keep up with the demand for American Silver Eagles for the past two months (see U.S. Mint Sold Out).  During December, unexpectedly strong demand resulted in the suspension of silver bullion coin sales during mid December after the entire stock of 2012 coins was sold out.  At the time the Mint announced that the 2013 American Silver Eagles would be available on January 7, 2013.

Opening day sales on January 7th for the 2013 American Silver Eagle bullion coins turned out to be the largest on record with sales of 3,937,000 coins.  Demand for silver bullion continued to climb and by January 17th, the Mint once again announced that sales of the silver bullion coins would be suspended until the last week of January.  When sales resumed this week, demand was again much higher than anticipated.  Due to record demand, the Mint previously announced that they may have to institute rationing of the coins.  Since the US Mint’s production schedule has been blown right out the window for two months running, it would not be surprising if rationing of the coins was implemented.

Sales of the American Eagle Gold bullion coins has also soared during the first month of the year.  January sales to date of 140,000 ounces of gold bullion coins is the highest monthly sales since June 2010 when the Mint sold 151,500 ounces.

Why The $1 Trillion Platinum Coin Idea Won’t Work

With the United States rapidly approaching the debt ceiling limit, a dysfunctional and divided Congress appears unable to agree on either spending cuts or an increase in the debt ceiling.  Absent some grand Congressional compromise, America’s nonstop trillion dollar deficit spending will rapidly push the nation to the brink of default before the end of next month.

Although the idea of default seems like a low probability to many people, if such an event were to occur, the result could be disastrous to both the markets and the economy.  Americans have always been able to come up with ingenious solutions before falling off the precipice and this time is no different.  The idea of minting a $1 trillion dollar face value platinum coin to cover our spending needs has quickly garnered national attention.

Predictably, opinions vary greatly as to the legality and efficacy of using a coin worth about $1,700 to fund a trillion dollars worth of spending.  The trillion dollar coin idea, ridiculed as irresponsible by some, is seen by others as a legitimate manner in which to resolve our deficit crisis.  For fiscal conservatives, the mere thought of proclaiming a common coin to have a trillion dollar value in order to remain solvent, is a wretched sign of how incredibly tenuous the financial condition of the United States has become.

In no particular order, here are some of the arguments regarding the trillion dollar coin.

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) announced that he would introduce a bill to stop the proposal to mint high-value platinum coins to pay the federal government’s bills.   Rep. Walden said, “Some people are in denial about the need to reduce spending and balance the budget. This scheme to mint trillion dollar platinum coins is absurd and dangerous, and would be laughable if the proponents weren’t so serious about it as a solution. I’m introducing a bill to stop it in its tracks.”

A Washington Research Group analyst said, “The President could assert that that 14th amendment negates the requirement for Congress to raise the debt ceiling.  Or Treasury could mint a $1 trillion platinum coin and deposit it at the Federal Reserve.  Neither are great options.  We see chaos if the market has to confront Treasuries where the debt is backed by Congress and those where it is not backed by Congress.  For banks, this might be as bad as an actual default. The economic uncertainty could cause lending to grind to a halt, the disruptions could cause unemployment to spike which means higher loan losses, and interest rates could skyrocket as the market is unsure whether one of these creative solutions is even legal.”

According to Bloomberg:

In general, the Treasury Department is not allowed to just print money if it feels like it. It must defer to the Federal Reserve’s control of the money supply. But there is an exception: Platinum coins may be struck with whatever specifications the Treasury secretary sees fit, including denomination.

This law was intended to allow the production of commemorative coins for collectors. But it can also be used to create large-denomination coins that Treasury can deposit with the Fed to finance payment of the government’s bills, in lieu of issuing debt.

What the law should say is that the executive branch may borrow to pay whatever obligations the federal government has, but may not print. Unfortunately, when we hit the debt ceiling, the situation will be backwards: The administration will not be allowed to borrow, but it can print in unlimited quantities.

Economist Paul Krugman, who believes that the United States effectively has no limit on its spending ability, thinks using a $1 trillion dollar coin would solve our debt limit crisis.

Should President Obama be willing to print a $1 trillion platinum coin if Republicans try to force America into default? Yes, absolutely. He will, after all, be faced with a choice between two alternatives: one that’s silly but benign, the other that’s equally silly but both vile and disastrous. The decision should be obvious.

Enter the platinum coin. There’s a legal loophole allowing the Treasury to mint platinum coins in any denomination the secretary chooses. Yes, it was intended to allow commemorative collector’s items — but that’s not what the letter of the law says. And by minting a $1 trillion coin, then depositing it at the Fed, the Treasury could acquire enough cash to sidestep the debt ceiling — while doing no economic harm at all.

The American Enterprise Institute explains how the platinum coin concept would work:

There are limits on how much paper money the U.S. can circulate and rules that govern coinage on gold, silver, and copper.  BUT, the Treasury has broad discretion on coins made from platinum.  The theory goes that the U.S. Mint would create a handful of trillion dollar (or more) platinum coins.  The President would then order the coins deposited at the Fed, who would then put the coin(s) in the Treasury who now can pay all their bills and a default is removed from the equation.  The effects on the currency market and inflation are unclear, to say the least.

According to CNN:

Normally, the Federal Reserve is charged with issuing currency. But U.S. law, specifically 31 USC § 5112, also grants Treasury permission to “mint and issue platinum bullion coins and proof platinum coins.”

This section of law was meant to allow for the printing of commemorative coins and the like. But the Treasury Secretary has the authority to mint these coins in any denomination he or she sees fit.

Why The $1 Trillion Platinum Coin Idea Won’t Work

The genesis of the trillion dollar platinum coin scheme derives from the law (Title 31, Section 5112, (31 U.S.C. § 5112(k)) passed by Congress under their constitutional power to coin money and regulate the value thereof.  This particular law was passed to give the U.S. Mint the authority to produce the American Eagle Platinum Bullion and Proof coins, without restriction to the American Eagle products program.

The Secretary may mint and issue platinum bullion coins and proof platinum coins in accordance with such specifications, designs, varieties, quantities, denominations, and inscriptions as the Secretary, in the Secretary’s discretion, may prescribe from time to time.

As argued in some of the commentary above, it seems clear that the law would allow the Secretary to authorize the U.S. Mint to produce a platinum of any stated denomination, including one trillion dollars.

The Federal Reserve would receive a coin on which would yield a profit of $1 trillion dollars based on the concept of seigniorage, which is the difference between the cost to produce the coin and the “face value” of the money stamped on it by the U.S. Mint.  However, under the rules of both the American Eagle program and other commemorative programs, the coin does not become “legal tender” until the U.S. Mint is paid for the coin with other legal tender or an appropriately valued amount of bullion.  Until the U.S. Mint was paid, the Federal Reserve would possess a rather beautiful coin worth only about $1,700, representing the intrinsic value of the platinum contained therein.

In the recent case of the government confiscation of 1933 Saint-Gauden Double Eagle gold coins from the heirs of Israel Swift, the court ruling confirmed the validity of the legal tender concept.  In the court ruling, Judge Davis cites precedents, including the government’s original case against Israel Swift in 1934, and confirmed that until a U.S. Mint coin is bought and paid for, the coin is not considered to be legal tender.  The concept of a coin not becoming legal tender until it was paid for was further confirmed in the sale of the Fenton-Farouk 1933 Double Eagle gold coin.  When the Double Eagle was sold on July 30, 2002, for $7.6 million, an additional $20 was required to be paid to “monetize” the face value of the coin in order for it to become legal currency.

Exactly how would the U.S. Mint be paid in order for the $1 trillion coin to become official legal tender?  If the Federal Reserve accepts the trillion dollar coin from the U.S. Mint, they would incur a $1 trillion liability to the U.S. Mint.  To offset the liability to the U.S. Mint, the U.S. Treasury would have sell $1 trillion in bonds which can’t legally be done due to the limits placed on its borrowing capacity by the debt ceiling limit.  The idea of a $1 trillion platinum coin becomes a fatally flawed solution that solves nothing.

So why can’t the Federal Reserve simply “print money” to pay for the $1 trillion coin?  As explained by Paul Krugman, the Fed does not legally have the power to print money, with one rather dubious exception.

First, as a legal matter the Federal government can’t just print money to pay its bills, with one peculiar exception. Instead, money has to be created by the Federal Reserve, which then puts it into circulation by buying Federal debt. You may say that this is an artificial distinction, because the Fed is effectively part of the government; but legally, the distinction matters, and the debt bought by the Fed counts against the debt ceiling.

Furthermore, Krugman admits that the platinum coin idea is a “gimmick” since the coin would effectively have the same value as other outstanding Treasury debt and the Treasury would have to eventually buy the coin back with additional borrowings.  Somewhat surprisingly, Krugman also concedes that despite the fact that much of the government’s current spending is financed by the Fed’s money printing, we cannot ignore the ultimate consequences of huge holdings of Treasury debt held by the Fed.

It’s true that printing money isn’t at all inflationary under current conditions — that is, with the economy depressed and interest rates up against the zero lower bound. But eventually these conditions will end. At that point, to prevent a sharp rise in inflation the Fed will want to pull back much of the monetary base it created in response to the crisis, which means selling off the Federal debt it bought. So even though right now that debt is just a claim by one more or less governmental agency on another governmental agency, it will eventually turn into debt held by the public.

The entire concept of the United States funding itself with a manufactured $1 trillion dollar coin of nominal intrinsic value is fraught with danger since it highlights the extent to which we are willing to debase the value of the U.S. dollar to continue massive deficit spending – at some point our creditors will begin to take notice.  Think of Japan and China who each hold more than $1 trillion in U.S. Treasury debt securities.

Aside from the fact that the minting of a $1 trillion dollar coin is probably legal, it is not a workable solution since the coin would be of no value until it was paid for as explained above.  As discussed in Bloomberg, instead of pursuing dubious policies that will ultimately alarm the nation’s creditors, the challenge of compromising on the debt ceiling should be viewed as an opportunity for Congress to take responsibility for the nation’s future fiscal policies.

Watch what he did, not what he says. President Barack Obama says he won’t agree to spending cuts in return for Republicans’ raising the debt ceiling. Yet he did exactly that in 2011. And he should do it again.

The debt ceiling ought to be raised because nobody has a plan to eliminate the deficit immediately, and there is no popular support for doing what that would take. A congressman who isn’t presenting and supporting a zero-deficit-now plan has an obligation to give the federal government the additional borrowing authority that continued deficits make necessary.

For liberals, that’s the end of the matter. The debt ceiling should be raised without any spending cuts attached, and ideally it should be raised to infinity. One common argument goes like this: Since Congress sets spending and tax levels, no good purpose is served by holding a separate vote making it possible for the government to follow Congress’s original instructions.

That argument would have more force if the federal budget were the result of a deliberate policy. Instead, more and more of our spending rises on autopilot because of decisions made long ago, and nobody is forced to take responsibility for the gap between revenue and commitments. Bills to raise the debt ceiling are the only occasions when congressmen and the president come close to doing so. They are thus appropriate moments to attack the trends that are driving our rising debt.

More On This Topic – “Creating Money Out of Thin Air”

Former U.S. Mint Director: The $1 Trillion Platinum Coin Ain’t Worth a Plugged Nickel

The $1 trillion platinum coin is a desperate gimmick of questionable legality and doesn’t even come close to solving our fiscal problems.

First, it may be legal to mint a platinum bullion coin with a $1 trillion face value, but it’s not legal to pass it off as actually worth $1 trillion if there isn’t $1 trillion of platinum in it. That’s because it’s a bullion coin and not a legal circulating coin. The face value of a bullion coin has no relationship with the metal content because the value is in the metal, whose price fluctuates daily.

Second, for a coin to be worth its face value, it has to be made as a circulating coin.

The Fed would pay the Mint face value for the coin. After deducting the cost of the coin, the Mint would return the balance to the Treasury. All this needs to be done before we run out of money. Good luck with that.

Third, the current law does allow the Mint to make a platinum proof coin and does not specify whether this applies to a bullion coin or a circulating coin. A proof coin refers to a mirror-like finish and is made for coin collectors. However, a proof coin must be accepted at face value. Some have argued that the law can be stretched to allow for a platinum circulating coin, but this would not be consistent with the intent of the original legislation.

But let’s ignore the law for a moment. Let’s assume that a $1 trillion circulating coin could be created. It would be no different than creating money out of thin air.

<

Gold Bullion Coin Sales Drop For Fourth Straight Year, 2013 Sales Off To Strong Start

According to the latest U.S. Mint report, sales of the American Eagle Gold bullion coins for December 2012 totaled 76,000 ounces, up 16% from December 2011 when 65,500 ounces were sold.  Sales for the month were down 44.3% from November sales which totaled 136,500 ounces.

Sales of the gold bullion coins can vary dramatically from month to month.  The highest sales month was November with sales of 136,500 ounces and the lowest sales month was April when only 20,000 ounces were sold.  Average monthly sales of the gold bullion coins for 2012 was 62,750 ounces with total sales for the year coming in at 753,000.   The gold bullion coins are available in one ounce, one-half ounce, one quarter ounce and one-tenth ounce.

Sales of the American Eagle Gold bullion coins have now declined for four straight years in a row.  The all time record sales year was 2009 when the U.S. Mint sold 1,435,000 ounces.   The value of the gold bullion coins purchased since 2000 totals almost $13.5 billion.

The U.S. Mint only sells the gold bullion coins to a network of authorized purchasers who buy the coins in bulk based on a markup and the market gold value.  The primary distributors who buy the coins then resell them to other bullion dealers, coin dealers and the public.  By using this type of distribution channel, the U.S. Mint believes that the coins can be made widely available to the public with reasonable transaction costs and at premiums in line with other bullion programs.

The 2013 American Gold Eagle bullion coins were first available to authorized purchasers on January 2, 2013.  Demand for the newest gold bullion coins was very strong with 50,000 ounces sold on the first day.  For the entire month of January 2012, a total of 127,000 ounces of the coins were sold.

Gold Bullion U.S. Mint Sales By Year
Year Total Sales Oz.
2000 164,500
2001 325,000
2002 315,000
2003 484,500
2004 536,000
2005 449,000
2006 261,000
2007 198,500
2008 860,500
2009 1,435,000
2010 1,220,500
2011 1,000,000
2012 753,000
Total 8,002,500

After a volatile year, gold ended with a strong note for 2012, up by 7.1% and rising for the 12th year in a row as global central banks ramped up the printing presses in an attempt to “stimulate” the world economy.  In his annual “10 Surprises ” list for 2013, Byron Wien, Chairman of Blackstone Group’s advisory unit predicted that gold would reach $1,900 as “central bankers everywhere continue to debase their currencies and the financial markets prove treacherous.”  Based on the way things are going and the speed at which central banks are joining the money printing race, Mr. Wien’s forecast is likely to prove extremely conservative.

American Silver Eagle Bullion Coin Sales For 2012 Tops 33 Million Ounces – Mint Runs Out Of Coins

According to the U.S. Mint, total sales of the American Silver Eagle bullion coins for December 2012 totaled only 1,635,000 ounces, down by 18.6% from 2,009,000 coins sold during December 2011.  The lowest monthly sales for the year occurred in February when 1,490,000 Silver Eagle Bullion coins were sold.  The highest monthly sales of the Silver Eagles occurred in January when 6,107,000 coins were sold.

Demand for the Silver Eagle bullion coins has been robust this year and the low sales for December do not reflect reduced demand but rather reduced U.S. Mint production.   As reported by Coin Update, the Mint reported in mid December that all Silver Eagle bullion coins had sold out and no additional coins would be struck during 2012.  The Mint announced that the 2013 Silver Eagle bullion coins should be available to authorized purchasers on January 7, 2013.

As with other bullion programs, the US Mint does not sell Silver Eagle bullion coins directly to the public, but distributes them through a network of authorized purchasers. The primary distributors are able to purchase the coins in bulk quantities at a price based on the market price of silver plus a fixed mark up. The coins are then resold to other bullion dealers, coin dealers, and the public.

The US Mint originally began accepting orders for the 2012 Silver Eagles from authorized purchasers on January 3, 2012. After a strong January, monthly sales trailed the levels of the prior year until October when demand started to move higher. In November, bullion sales continued their renewed strength, with sales of American Gold and Silver Eagles more than doubling the figures from the year ago period.

The strong sales in November caused the United States Mint to adjust their production plans for one ounce and one-tenth ounce American Gold Eagle bullion coins in order to avoid selling out prior to the end of the year. Apparently, the Mint did not adjust production plans for American Silver Eagle bullion coins.

The sales figures for December would likely have exceeded 3 million ounces if the Mint had produced enough silver bullion coins to meet demand.  Nonetheless, total sales of the Silver Eagle bullion coins for 2012 were the third highest on record with a total of 33,742,500 coins sold.  All time record sales of the Silver Eagle coins occurred during 2011 when almost 40 million coins were sold.

 

Demand for the Silver Eagles has soared since the financial crisis began in 2008 and recent announcements by the Federal Reserve and other central banks pledging unlimited money printing is certain to increase investors demand for safe haven precious metals.

Since 2000, investors have purchased an astonishing 232,143,000 American Silver Eagle one ounce coins worth over $7 billion at current market prices.

U.S. Mint Numismatic Precious Metals Sales Decline

According to Coin Update, sales of numismatic precious metal coins showed weekly sales declines.  Future sales, however, may increase due to an upcoming price decrease based on the recent correction in precious metal prices.

The latest report of the United States Mint’s numismatic product sales shows mostly lower numbers for precious metals products. Elsewhere in the report, the Chester Arthur Presidential $1 Coin and Alice Paul Bronze Medal Set makes its debut.

Ten out of sixteen gold numismatic products showed weekly sales declines compared to the prior period. The US Mint currently has these products priced based on an average gold price within the $1750 to $1799.99 range. With the market price of gold below this range for the entire reporting period, buyers may be showing restraint as they await the next weekly pricing adjustment.

Eighteen out of twenty-seven of the silver numismatic products showed weekly sales declines compared to the prior period. The US Mint raised prices for many of these products earlier in the month when the market price of silver was approaching $35 per ounce. Silver has since fallen back from this level, although the higher product prices remain in effect. The America the Beautiful Five Ounce Silver Coins showed sales declines across all nine options currently available. Gains were seen for the 2012 Proof and 2012-W Uncirculated Silver Eagles compared to the prior period.

The 2012 Proof Platinum Eagle, which is the only available platinum product, showed negative sales on the week.

See the full sales report for U.S. Mint numismatic products here.

Month to date figures for U.S. Mint gold and silver bullion coins remains strong.  Through October 24th, the U.S. Mint sold 2,584,000 one ounce American Eagle Silver Bullion coins.  If the current sales pace continues, monthly sales could exceed 3.5 million ounces which would be the second best monthly sales total after January when 6,107,000 silver Eagles were sold.

Sales of the American Eagle Gold Bullion coins also remain strong through October 24th with 48,500 ounces sold.  If the current pace of sales is maintained, total sales of the American Gold Bullion coins should reach almost 65,000 for October which would be the third highest sales month of the year.  In January the U.S. Mint sold 127,000 ounces of gold bullion coins followed by 68,500 ounces in September.

Although gold prices have soared over the past decade and the purchasing power of the dollar has collapsed, the American public still does not recognize the value of gold and silver as a store of wealth.  Expect this to change as the bull market in precious metals continues.

Gold Bullion Coin Sales Soar 76% In September, Silver Sales Up 13%

According to the latest report from the U.S. Mint, demand for both gold and silver bullion coins during September surged to the highest levels since January.

Total sales of the American Eagle Gold bullion coins during September soared 75.6% to 68,500 ounces from 39,000 ounces in August.  Monthly sales of gold bullion coins have fluctuated widely during 2012 with a high of 127,000 ounces in January and a low of 20,000 ounces in April.   The average monthly sales of gold bullion coins through September is 53,500.

Total sales of the American Eagle Gold bullion coins through September total 481,500 ounces.   Unless sales surge dramatically during the last three months of the year, 2012 will be the fourth year of declining sales of the gold bullion coin.   As detailed below, the all time record for sales of the gold bullion coins was during 2009 when sales exceeded 1.4 million ounces.

Gold Bullion U.S. Mint Sales By Year
Year Total Sales Oz.
2000 164,500
2001 325,000
2002 315,000
2003 484,500
2004 536,000
2005 449,000
2006 261,000
2007 198,500
2008 860,500
2009 1,435,000
2010 1,220,500
2011 1,000,000
Sept-12 481,500
Total 7,731,000

U.S. Mint sales of the American Eagle Silver bullion coins during September totaled 3,255,000 ounces, up 13.4% from August sales of 2,870,000 ounces.

Investor demand for the American Eagle Silver bullion coins has been relatively consistent throughout the year.  After a very strong January during which over 6.1 million coins were sold, demand remained strong with monthly sales well in excess of 2 million ounces except for February when sales slumped to 1,490,000 ounces.  If monthly sales of the American Eagle silver coins continue at the September sales pace, total sales for 2012 will be close to the record year of 2011 when almost 40 million ounces were sold.

Total annual sales by the U.S. Mint of the silver bullion coins since 2000 are shown below.  Sales for 2012 are through September.

American Silver Eagle Bullion Coins
YEAR OUNCES SOLD
2000 9,133,000
2001 8,827,500
2002 10,475,500
2003 9,153,500
2004 9,617,000
2005 8,405,000
2006 10,021,000
2007 9,887,000
2008 19,583,500
2009 28,766,500
2010 34,662,500
2011 39,868,500
Sept-12 25,795,000
TOTAL 224,195,500

The American Eagle gold and silver bullion coins produced by the U.S. Mint can only be purchased by Authorized Purchasers who in turn resell the coins to other dealers and the general public.  Numismatic versions (uncirculated or proof) of the American Eagle series coins can be purchased by the public directly from the U.S. Mint.

Platinum Has Soared 17% Since Early August – What Now?

Since establishing multiple chart bottoms at $1,400 during June and July, platinum has soared along with other precious metals.  Based on the London Fix Price, platinum has soared 16.5% from a low of $1,390 on August 3, 2012 to a September 20 closing price of $1,620.

In early August, Gold and Silver Blog examined the ostensibly poor fundamentals which had driven down the price of platinum and concluded that, based on the widely held bearish consensus and chart action, platinum had already fully discounted all bearish news.  In addition, the gold to platinum ratio had reached a low not seen since 1985, another signal that platinum was undervalued.  (See Platinum Perspectives – Time To Buy or Will The Bears Win?)

Courtesy: Kitco.com

Despite the recent normal consolidation in platinum, prices are likely to move substantially higher over time along with the rest of the precious metals complex.

As noted in early August, Platinum can be purchased from the U.S. Mint in the form of Proof Platinum Eagles.

The U.S. Mint has been producing the Proof American Platinum Eagle since 2009.  According to MintNewsBlog, the entire 2009 production of 8,000 Proof Platinum Eagles sold out in a week.  During 2010, the U.S. Mint produced 10,000 Proof Platinum coins which also quickly sold out.  During 2011, the mintage was set at 15,000 coins but the sales pace slowed considerably with pricing set at $2,092 and the coin has still not sold out with total sales of 14,760 as of the last U.S. Mint report.  On August 9th, the U.S. Mint announced that production of the 2012 Proof American  Platinum Eagles will be set at 15,000 coins.  Orders are limited to 5 per household with initial pricing at $1,692.

For investors disinclined to hold physical platinum, positions can be easily established through the purchase of the ETFS Physical Platinum Shares (PPLT) which holds physical platinum.  The PPLT holds a relatively small amount of platinum reflecting the lack of broad investor participation in the platinum sector.  The PPLT recently held about 5,000 ounces of platinum valued at $79.6 million.  Gold remains the premier investment choice in precious metals but a position in platinum could add some luster to an investor’s precious metals portfolio.

Courtesy – yahoo finance

More on this topic:
Closed Platinum Mines Offset By Stockpile Surplus – Is A Surprise Platinum Rally Coming?

Platinum Soars $78 On Week As Bodies Pile Up In South Africa

Gold and Silver Bullion Coin Sales Jump 25% In August, San Francisco Silver Eagle Set Sold Out

The latest sales figures from the U.S. Mint for August show a significant increase in sales of both gold and silver bullion coins.

Sales of gold bullion coins during 2012 have varied dramatically from month to month with a high of 127,000 ounces in January to a low of only 20,000 ounces in April.  Monthly gold bullion sales through August have averaged 51,625 ounces.

Monthly sales of silver bullion coins have been more consistent during 2012.  The U.S. Mint sold over 6 million ounces of silver bullion coins in January, but the monthly pace has tapered off to under 3 million ounces.  The average monthly sales of silver bullion coins through August is 2,817,500.

American Eagle Gold Bullion Coin Sales

Total sales of the American Eagle Gold bullion coins during August totaled 39,000 ounces, up 27.9% from July’s total of 30,500 ounces.  Total sales of gold bullion coins by the U.S. Mint through August totaled 413,000 ounces, valued at approximately $700 million based on today’s closing gold price.

On an annualized basis, the U.S. Mint will sell almost 620,000 ounces of  gold bullion to investors this year valued at $1.0 billion if the price of gold remains at $1,692.  During 2009, the peak year of gold bullion coin sales by the U.S. Mint, investors purchased 1,435,000 ounces valued at $1.4 billion based on the average price of gold of $972 per ounce.

Investors who have reduced gold bullion purchases due to the increased cost per ounce will no doubt regret this decision as the price of gold continues to increase.  The value of gold should be viewed in the context of the reduced purchasing power of the dollar – as the Federal Reserve constantly destroys the purchasing power of the U.S. dollar, the “dollar cost” of gold will naturally increase.  The price of gold is merely reflecting the fact that paper dollars are worth less and less every day.

As the Fed continues to do what it does, expect the bull market in gold to continue.

Listed below are yearly sales figures for the American Eagle gold bullion coins since 2000.  Sales for 2012 are through August 31st.

Gold Bullion U.S. Mint Sales By Year
Year Total Sales Oz.
2000 164,500
2001 325,000
2002 315,000
2003 484,500
2004 536,000
2005 449,000
2006 261,000
2007 198,500
2008 860,500
2009 1,435,000
2010 1,220,500
2011 1,000,000
2012 413,000
Total 7,662,500

American Eagle Silver Bullion Coin Sales

Sales of the American Eagle Silver bullion coins by the U.S. Mint during August totaled 2,870,000 ounces, up 25% from the July total of 2,278,000 ounces.  Investor demand for silver has remained strong, with many investors taking the opportunity to purchase additional silver below the highs reached during 2011.  Sales of the silver bullion coins remain near record levels and total sales for 2012 should be well in excess of 30 million ounces for the third consecutive year.

Total annual sales by the U.S. Mint of the silver bullion coins since 2000 are shown below.  Sales for 2012 are through August.

American Silver Eagle Bullion Coins
YEAR OUNCES SOLD
2000 9,133,000
2001 8,827,500
2002 10,475,500
2003 9,153,500
2004 9,617,000
2005 8,405,000
2006 10,021,000
2007 9,887,000
2008 19,583,500
2009 28,766,500
2010 34,662,500
2011 39,868,500
Jul-12 22,540,000
TOTAL 220,940,500

U.S. Mint Numismatic American Eagle Gold and Silver Coins

Both the American Eagle gold and silver bullion coins can only be purchased from the U.S. Mint by Authorized Purchasers who in turn resell the coins to other dealers and the general public.  The numismatic versions of the American Eagle series coins can be purchased directly from the U.S. Mint.

Many of the numismatic silver coins produced by the U.S. Mint attract strong demand and often times, the coins will sell at a premium in the secondary market.  A recent example of this is the 2012 San Francisco Silver Eagle Set.  According to the Mint News Blog:

The 2012 San Francisco Silver Eagle Set was one of the United States Mint’s most anticipated product releases of the year. Each set contained one 2012-S Proof Silver Eagle and one 2012-S Reverse Proof Silver Eagle.

Product sales began on June 7, 2012 at 12:00 Noon ET with pricing of $149.95 per set. Rather than establishing a maximum product limit, as had been done for similar products in the past, the US Mint would accept orders during a four week ordering window and produce the sets to meet the total demand. A sales odometer which was updated daily gave collectors an indication of the progress of the offering. Sales officially closed on July 5, 2012 at 5:00 PM ET. The last indicated sales total was 251,302 sets.

On the secondary market, prices for the sets remain above the issue price. A quick survey of eBay auctions completed within the past few days show the prices realized for raw sets mostly falling into a range of $180 to $190, compared to the issue price of $149.95.

Sets which have been graded by PCGS or NGC and received the top grade of Proof-70 have sold for premiums above raw sets. Sets with the two coins graded PCGS PR70DCAM and PR70 have recently sold for prices around $425 to $450. Sets with the two coins graded NGC PF 70 Ultra Cameo and PF 70 have sold for prices around $300 to $325.

New Gold and Silver Baseball Commemorative Coins Highlight Lack Of Innovation By U.S. Mint

How Congress Stifles Innovative Coin Designs By U.S. Mint

Ever wonder why the U.S. Mint shows a lack of innovation in coin design compared to other world mints?  Here’s part of the reason as detailed by Mint News Blog:

Many coin related bills are introduced each year, but only a small number become law. In order for a bill to become law, it must be passed by both the House and Senate and then signed into law by the President. Under Congressional rules, two-thirds of each body must co-sponsor a bill before it is even put up to a vote, which is the hurdle that many bills cannot meet. Another rule limits the number of commemorative coin programs to only two per year.

The most recent bill to become law was the National Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin Act. The bill H.R. 2527 was introduced on July 14, 2011, passed in the House of Representatives on October 26, 2011, passed by the Senate on July 12, 2012, and signed by the President on August 3, 2012.

The program calls for the minting and issuance of up to 50,000 $5 gold coins, 400,000 silver dollars, and 750,000 clad half dollars in recognition and celebration of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. These coins will be issued only during the one-year period beginning on January 1, 2014.

Mint New Blog goes on to discuss how the coin design will be unique with the reverse of the coin made convex and the obverse concave to enhance the resemblance to a baseball.  The coin may resemble a recently produced dome shaped coin issued by the Royal Australian Mint as shown below.

The commemorative baseball coin would represent the first innovation in coin design by the U.S. Mint since 2000 when the Library of Congress $10 coin was produced, which was the first and only US Mint bimetallic coin.  While the new baseball coin will certainly increase public interest in precious metal coins, Congress should grant the U.S. Mint more latitude to produce a wide variety of innovative coins without an onerous legislative process.

Platinum Soars $78 On Week As Bodies Pile Up In South Africa

South Africa continues to be wracked by violence as striking platinum mine workers clash with police.   In a confrontation between police and striking mine workers, a gunbattle resulted in the shooting deaths of 34 miners.

The center of the violence is at the Lonmin mine which suspended most production earlier this week when violence between rival labor unions resulted in the deaths of 10 miners.  The Lonmin mine is the world’s third largest producer of platinum.  South Africa is virtually the world’s sole source of platinum accounting for over 75% of total production.

As discussed in a previous post, the initial strike and violence at the Lonmim mine had virtually no impact on the price of platinum.  The majority of demand for platinum comes from the automobile and jewelry industries, both of which have seen weak demand due to a slowing world economy and outright recession in most of Europe.   In addition, a surplus stockpile of 4.5 million ounces of platinum, representing almost a year’s worth of demand has served to depress prices.

The time to buy often comes when there is no apparent reason to buy.   In “Platinum Perspectives – Time to Buy or Will The Bears Win?“, we argued that the steep $500 per ounce price decline since last year had already discounted reduced demand for platinum as well as the surplus stockpiles. Despite the apparently worsening fundamentals, platinum refused to drop decisively below $1,400 and rallied every time the price dipped below $1,400.

courtesy stockcharts.com

Even more intriguing was the fact that hedge funds had established the largest short positions is history in the futures market.  The crowd was definitely leaning in one direction.  Any news of further supply disruptions or an increase in demand for platinum would force bearish shorts to cover, resulting in sharply higher prices.  That is exactly what happened this week as fears spread that the increasing violence between police and striking platinum miners would result in further mine shutdowns.

Platinum soared by $78 on the week to close in New York trading at $1,479.

Will the unrest in South Africa spiral out of control?  As the world economy continues to get worse, social unrest has spread from one country to another resulting in toppled leaders, bloodshed and civil wars.  South Africa is a potential hotbed for social unrest and violence with a 25% unemployment rate, 50% of the population living below the poverty line and 50% of those under the age of 35 unemployed.

Prior to the violence at the Lonmin mine, miners had been on strike earlier this year for six weeks at Impala Platinum mine resulting in lost production of 120,000 ounces of platinum.  Unless the authorities and mine management can quickly contain the violence at the platinum mines, unrest could quickly spread to other mining operations and throughout South Africa.

South Africa is also a major gold producer ranking 5th in the world.  Although South African gold production recently declined to a 90 year low, annual production during 2011 was 190 tonnes, representing almost 8% of total worldwide annual gold production of about 2,500 tonnes.  South Africa’s annual production of gold declined from 400 tonnes in 2001 to only 190 tonnes in 2011, due to lower grade ore deposits and depletion of existing mines.

Proof American Platinum Eagles can be purchased by consumers directly from the U.S. Mint.  The U.S. Mint recently announced that production of the 2012 Proof American Platinum Eagles will be set at 15,000 coins.  The Mint has been producing the proof platinum eagle coins since 2009.  Initial pricing per coin for the Proof American Platinum Eagles was set at $1,692.