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What Will You Want to Buy?
January 26, 2011

It may seem a little strange to talk about the rising price of bullion during the present market correction, but that is what is being thought about by the various coin issuing authorities gathering in Berlin for the World Money Fair. Prices may be down over the past week, but compared to one year ago, they are through the roof.

Rising prices are a coin marketer’s nightmare. Familiar silver coins are becoming too expensive. Comfortable price points at which buyers readily snap up new commemorative issues have been surpassed, causing many buyers to slow down their purchases as they endure the agony of deciding whether they really want something at the new and far higher prices.

The upshot is that if the present higher prices persist, there will be a remodeling of sorts of new collector coin offerings. New and smaller sizes will be adopted and new marketing campaigns to tell would-be buyers why these new sizes are just as desirable will be conducted. What those decisions will be and how they will be sold to the world’s coin buyers are what I am here to find out.

On the other hand, the bullion investment side of things is doing just fine, thank you very much. The convenient one-troy ounce sizes are just as convenient, perhaps even more  so. An owner of such coins can very easily figure out that his profit on a one-ounce silver coin is 50 percent if the coin he paid $20 an ounce for is now $30 an ounce on the world market. That is the advantage of the system.

For bullion coins, higher prices merely state the obvious: You should have bought this last year. They also become a self-reinforcing selling point: Buy now before prices go higher still. As long as the bullion markets cooperate by going up, bullion coins sell themselves.

Then there are base metal coins. Rising bullion prices lead to questions as to whether more emphasis should be put on marketing standard circulating pieces, like the bimetallic 2-euro coins issued now by 17 members of the European Currency Union. There are no bullion profits to be had, but prices stay reasonable and changing themes can inspire collectors.

So if you are counting your bullion profits, pause for a moment and pity the poor mint official who has to figure out what you want to buy next.

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About the Author
David C. Harper has been a coin collector since 1963. He joined the Krause Publications editorial staff in 1978 and is currently editor of Numismatic News and World Coin News. He also edits two books annually, North American Coins & Prices and Coin Digest. He is the author of the Class of '63 column that runs each week in Numismatic News. His first bylined numismatic article appeared in the June 1971 issue of Coins Magazine and his various Krause Publications assignments included a stint as editor of the magazine 1980-1983. Harper received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1977. He had a double major of journalism and economics.

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