Precious Metals

Uncertainty over sales of silver bullion coins

2013 was a record sales year of American Eagle silver bullion coins for the U.S. Mint, with more than 42.6 million of the .999 fine silver dollars sold.

Coin for photography courtesy of SilverTowne.

Collectors and investors faced some uncertainty about the availability of the coins in the U.S. Mint’s two silver bullion programs in mid- and late January.

Both the American Eagle 1-ounce and America the Beautiful 5-ounce bullion coin programs were affected.

United States Mint officials suspended sales of 2013 American Eagle 1-ounce silver bullion coins to its authorized purchasers Jan. 17 until exhausted inventories are replenished.

Jack A. Szczerban, branch chief of the U.S. Mint’s Precious Metals Group, informed the authorized purchasers that the Mint was temporarily sold out of the .999 fine silver bullion coins. He said sales would resume on or about the week of Jan. 28, and then via an allocation process.

The Mint also removed tentative release dates on its website at for Uncirculated 2013-P America the Beautiful 5-ounce silver quarter dollars. Mint officials said they removed the dates while they work to solidify specific release dates and establish mintage levels.

American Eagle program

At the time of Szczerban’s Jan. 17 announcement suspending American Eagle silver bullion coin sales, the U.S. Mint had already recorded sales of 6,007,000 of the coins. Production of the 2013 silver American Eagles began at both the West Point Mint and San Francisco Mint right after Thanksgiving.

Authorized purchasers were able to place orders for the 2013 American Eagle silver bullion coins for the first time beginning Jan. 7. American Eagle and American Buffalo gold bullion coins went on sale to authorized purchasers Jan. 2.

The month’s sales of 6,007,000 American Eagle silver bullion coins make January the third highest sales month since program sales were inaugurated in November 1986.

The highest silver American Eagle sales month recorded is January 2011 with 6,422,000 coins sold, followed by January 2012 with 6,107,000 coins.

2011 was the banner year for American Eagle silver bullion coins sales, with 39,868,500 coins reported sold. The lowest sales year was 1996, with 3,466,000 coins recorded sold.

For the past several years, sales of American Eagle and American Buffalo bullion coins to authorized purchasers have not begun until after Jan. 1 of the year dated on the coin.

Before that, authorized purchasers were often afforded the opportunity to place orders during the latter half of December of the previous year, with delivery of the coins after Jan. 1. Those sales were recorded for December.

America the Beautiful program

White said the U.S. Mint has experienced no production problems or planchet delays involving the America the Beautiful 5-ounce silver coins.

Production has already begun for the 2013 bullion and 2013-P Uncirculated collector versions of the White Mountain National Forest (N.H.) and Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial (Ohio) 5-ounce silver coins, White said.

Mintage levels for the bullion and Uncirculated numismatic versions still have to be determined, White said.

The early release by the U.S. Mint of its 2013 product schedule in December “was part of a continued effort to give our customers as much information as possible to make their purchasing decisions throughout the year,” White said.

White noted the December announcement also advised customers and potential customers that the schedule could change without notice, and would be also updated when release dates for products to be offered later are established.

“In releasing the product schedule as well in advance as possible, we knew that pricing and date changes for some products would inevitably occur, as the dates did regarding the 2013 America the Beautiful Five-Ounce Silver Uncirculated Coins,” White said. “We look forward to announcing the revised dates on the product schedule as soon as possible once they are determined.

“We regret any inconvenience this date change may cause our valued customers who purchase America the Beautiful Silver Uncirculated Coins,” White said.

The 5-ounce bullion coins are struck on a dedicated press at the Philadelphia Mint using 3-inch planchets as received from the Mint’s outside supplier. The blanks have been upset on the rim, annealed (softened through heat treatment) and sonically cleaned.

The ultrasonic cleaning to the planchets helps eliminate buildup of debris on the coinage dies that would require a halt in production for cleaning or replacement of dies.

The Uncirculated collector versions, struck on the same planchets as the bullion versions, are subjected to a post-strike process. The Uncirculated numismatic versions undergo a “vapor blasting” technique after striking, resulting in a finish replicating that used on 3-inch bronze Mint medals.

The bullion version of the 5-ounce coin bears no Mint mark. The Uncirculated strikes bear the P Mint mark. ¦

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