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Market Can Be More Than New Buffalo Gold
October 20, 2009

The one-ounce Buffalo gold bullion coin became available to the U.S. Mint’s authorized purchasers Oct. 15. By Oct. 19, they had taken 71,500 of the .9999 fine bullion coins.

The market will be crazy about them because gold bullion itself is moving along in record territory over the $1,000 mark and because 71,500 coins in the present environment will seem scarce and hard to get.

It seems to me that some gold buyers should take the time to try to ferret out 19th century American gold issues in circulated grades that have mintages far lower than the 2009 Buffalo coin and yet trade for not that much more than bullion coins.

Part of the reason for this is the price of gold has gone up so much in recent years that many of the small price differentials that used to distinguish one coin from another have been swept away.

Another part of the reason for this is dealers who handle large volumes of gold coins don’t really have time to sort them. There is little reward when the current high level of interest in bullion coins makes rapid turnover a sure thing for far less bother in time and effort.

Where are these coins? That’s a good question. It will take some effort to find them.

When found, the owners may not want to part with them. Then again, holding them simply ties up working capital that can earn a higher return in the rapid turnover bullion business. Any potential buyer might actually be doing the dealer a favor by freeing up more working capital.

By focusing on the circulated grades, collectors won’t be tripped up by any condition mania.

Another angle to this is in the world gold coin field where collectors can find many issues of the last two or three decades with tiny mintages. These can be located even more readily than low-mintage American coins.

What’s the reward?

The first reward is actually still being a collector in the present environment. If the price of gold bullion continues to rise, that will augment the value of the scarcer 19th century regular issues.

Someday, the market will stabilize and relative rarities will again begin to be made in the marketplace.

Is this the way to great speculative gains? Probably not.

But actively trying to collect amid such frothy speculative market conditions will help keep everything else in perspective.

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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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