Precious Metals

Finding the tipping point for Proof Silver American

During the last week, many readers have shared their thoughts that the Mint priced its 2012 American Eagle San Francisco Two-Coin Silver Proof set too high at $149.95.

Finding value in pricing is all relative.

On one hand, when compared to the current price of a typical Proof 2012-W American Eagle silver dollar at $59.95, the per-coin price of the San Francisco Mint two-coin set at around $75 represents a modest increase from a typical Proof example. On the other hand, when compared to the cost of silver, which on June 7 when the sets went on sale was at the $29 level, the effective $75 per coin price of the San Francisco set seems downright steep. The set has two coins that can only be purchased as part of the set: a 2012-S Proof coin and 2012-S Reverse Proof coin.

The Mint knows that there is a strong collector appetite for this type of limited-edition set, as evidenced by its experience in releasing the 2011 five-coin 25th Anniversary set, which sold out its maximum of 100,000 sets in less than five hours during its inaugural day of sales, Oct. 27, 2011. That set was priced at $299.95 and had five coins including two that were unique to the set: a Reverse Proof 2011-P American Eagle silver dollar and an Uncirculated 2011-S coin.

The three other coins in the set were available individually: a Proof 2011-W coin, an Uncirculated 2011-W coin and a bullion coin from the San Francisco Mint with no Mint mark. Considering the then-retail prices for the three coins in the 2011 25th Anniversary set that were otherwise available individually — around $145 — the per-coin price of the two coins unique to the 25th Anniversary set was about $77.50. If nothing else, at least the Mint is relatively consistent in its pricing of limited-issue Proof silver American Eagles.

Unfortunately, the innovative counter that will display a running total of sets ordered will first appear on June 8 at 3 p.m., so as this issue goes to press we won’t know how many sets were sold in the first day. Yet, collectors reported the now-familiar first-day struggle to navigate the Mint’s website and telephones to place their orders, despite the fact that the sets are going to be offered — with no household ordering limits — until July 5.

It will be interesting to see where the tipping point for collectors lies: That moment when collectors decide that they may be able to acquire a set cheaper on the secondary market than on the primary market through the Mint? Or, that moment when collectors decide that collecting these sets is no longer a priority?

A bigger question is, perhaps, how much longer collectors will have a voracious appetite for limited-edition Proof American Eagle silver coins. The proliferation of new issues in the Proof silver American Eagle series is taking away one of the key elements that worked in the set’s favor: simplicity. The addition of more special, limited-edition variations makes the set more challenging to complete and more expensive. At some point, collector appetite for these sets could decrease.

One hopes that the Mint, in its efforts to please today’s collectors, is not turning off collectors of the future by creating an increasingly large and potentially unmanageable series. ¦

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