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Platinum Eagle Gets a Turn
December 12, 2007



I received a postcard yesterday from the U.S. Mint. It was in my personal mail to my home address, so I first saw it during lunch hour.

The topic of the card was to alert me to the sale that starts tomorrow of the 10th anniversary platinum American Eagle two-coin set.

Price of the set is $1,949.95. The coins in the set are half-ounce pieces. One is a proof. The other is what is called an enhanced reverse proof.

I don't have the money in my budget for this set, so I will pass. However, I have to note that the price is just $482.65 over the value of the metal in the coins, which works out to a 33 percent mark-up. That's not bad by international standards. Precious metal coins struck by the world's mints are usually twice bullion value, though recent rapid gains in metal prices have distorted this somewhat.

Technically, that means the coins are cheap compared to their peers, though U.S. Mint mark-ups have always been lower than world averages.

However, collectors don't buy based on world averages. They buy based on gross price. How many collectors have a spare $2,000 just before Christmas?

If they have the money, the next step is analyzing the mintage. It is up to 30,000. Will that be rare, or at least salable on eBay? At the beginning of the year, it might have been considered this. Now, with the Dolley Madison First Spouse coin still not sold out and the secondary market value of the Washington, Adams and Jefferson First Spouse coins pretty well collapsed back to bullion value, the determination is likely to go the other way.

I have pointed out from time to time that the Mint needs to prune its offerings. It, however, is on the self-perpetuating rationalization that next year's sales always have to be greater than this year's sales and that requires more and more products.

When businesses do that, it works until it doesn't and then sales collapse and then there are big write-offs. Remember the baseball card boom or Beanie Babies?

You get my point.

If you are looking into it, check out www.usmint.gov, the Mint's Web site.

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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, Bank Note Reporter 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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