By Louis Golino for CoinWeek ………
As expected, the most anticipated U.S. gold coin of the year, the 2013-W $50 Reverse Proof Buffalo, is selling at very brisk pace
On Thursday, August 8, the day the coin was launched, CoinNews.net reported that 2,641 orders for 12,630 coins were received during the first half hour of sales, mostly from online orders. Given that the average number of coins per order is almost five, I suspect many of those orders were from dealers. That is a very fast pace of sales for a coin that costs $1640
I asked them how they obtained the data and was told it came from Mint officials. In addition, they mentioned that pictures of the coin do not do it justice. CoinWorld and Numismatic News reported the same data on coin sales during the first half hour.
So in thirty minutes this coin surpassed sales of the regular Buffalo proof gold coin that has been on sale since May 23. As of August 11 the regular proof coin has sold 12,821 units
This development has reinforced speculation that the 2013 Buffalo proof could turn out to be a new key date coin for this series. It will probably be on sale for the rest of the year or longer, but most sales occur early on. If gold prices rise later in the year, that will further curtail sales, though if sales remain low the next couple months, that could bring in more buyers. Some people have speculated that the Mint may have made a first batch of 15,000 units and could end sales once that number is reached.
On August 9 the Mint added a sales odometer to the part of its web site where the coin is sold that allows buyers to track how many Reverse Proof Buffalo coins are being sold each of the thirty days it will be on sale. The Mint updates the odometer once a day around 3:00pm, and as was the case with the 2012 and 2013 silver eagle set odometers, the numbers are approximations and do not represent actual mintages, which will not be known for some time. There are always cancellations, and if gold drops in the coming weeks, that could set off a real flurry of orders cancelled by customers
The same day the Mint posted the odometer it issued a press release regarding the Mint’s presence at this week’s ANA World’s Fair of Money in Chicago, where the Reverse Proof Buffalo coin will be available for purchase. That is welcome news for those attending the show, who will be able to buy in person and pick out a nice one, but it is not so welcome news for those who can’t make the show and especially for those whose ship dates are once again being pushed back. Coins ordered on the second day of sales are showing an expected ship date of September 27
By Monday, August 12, the number of coins sold jumped by almost five thousand to 24,883. Buyers were likely motivated by the desire to get first strike-eligible coins and wanted to minimize shipping delays. In addition, with gold rising to almost $1340 by August 12, buyers knew prices were likely to rise by $50 on Wednesday, August 14, which they did.
On Tuesday, August 13 the odometer showed that about 2,000 more coins had been sold over the past day, raising the total to 26,905
I expect sales to begin tapering off this week, as has been the case with past coins sold through the 30-day window method, and then there is likely to be a final push right before sales end on September 5, depending on both gold prices at that time and the number of coins sold in the final days
Sales trends are useful information to consider when evaluating the long-term value potential for a coin. But coin prices are not determined by supply or mintage alone. Demand is also a critical factor. A low mintage coin that is not in demand is unlikely to appreciate, but a coin that is in high demand, especially in a widely collected series, will do well on the secondary market even if it is not especially scarce.
Even if 30,000 or more of the reverse proof coins are eventually sold, which will mean it is not one of the lowest mintage coins in the series, or even an especially low mintage modern gold coin, the coin is still likely to have a bright future. It is the first of its kind, and if the Mint does not issue more reverse proof Buffaloes, it will be a one-year type coin, which almost guarantees it will do well.
For these reasons I tend to see this coin as similar in many ways to the 2009 Ultra High Relief Double Eagle, which has a rather high mintage of about 100,000, but which sells for a solid premium substantially above its gold content, especially in MS70 first strike, or proof-like, when it is worth three times its gold value or more.
Another important factor is appearance. So far there are really not any good photographs of the coin apart from those taken by CoinNews at the West Point Mint as the coins were being made. Good images that really allow one to see how the coin differs from the regular proof will be useful. If the coin is as attractive in hand as I hope it is, that will help drive long-term demand even if there are tens of thousands around.
Besides, the regular proof normally sells tens of thousands of coins, and there is clearly a strong core of Buffalo proof gold collectors. As that group increases in size, demand for the reverse proof should increase as well, especially if it is a one-off coin.
The final consideration is shipping of orders. If customers once again experience the kind of delays encountered during the previous 30-day sales windows, perhaps this time in part because of the supply sent to Chicago for in-person sales, some buyers may become frustrated and cancel their orders.
Louis Golino is a coin collector and numismatic writer, whose articles on coins have appeared in Coin World, Numismatic News, and a number of different coin web sites. His column for CoinWeek, “The Coin Analyst,” covers U.S. and world coins and precious metals. He collects U.S. and European coins and is a member of the ANA, PCGS, NGC, and CAC. He has also worked for the U.S. Library of Congress and has been a syndicated columnist and news analyst on international affairs for a wide variety of newspapers and web sites.