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Will 5-Ounce Silver Catch On or Fail?
By David C. Harper, Numismatic News
May 10, 2013

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News.
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This is the year that will probably tell the tale regarding the success or failure of the 5-ounce America the Beautiful silver bullion and collector coins.

We witnessed a buyer frenzy to get the first ones at the end of 2010, but that wave has passed, and now those who still own the coins are experiencing some buyer’s remorse.

Collectors snapped up 33,000 of each collector version during the first year and bullion buyers were offered roughly 26,000 of each of the five designs.

Sales during the second year were a mixed bag. Because of the unusual nature of the first year’s production bottlenecks, bullion buyers were offered more. The first three designs of the year have mintages of over 100,000. That output if sustained would keep the ATB issues as viable bullion coins. However, by the time the fifth design was made available, buyers took up just under 50,000.

Collectors, on the other hand, suffered the usual second-year hangover in 2011. The newness of the 2010 issue had worn off and the excitement of complaining about how the Mint sold them was gone.

Demand dropped from the 33,000 level of 2010 to under 25,000 for the first design and then dropped to under 17,000 for the fifth. This was not an exceptionally weak performance, but it did show clearly the downward sales pattern of second years.

The third year, 2012, saw bullion demand continue to spiral lower. The healthy 126,700 number sold for the first design of 2011 gave way to just 20,000 coins for the fifth design of 2012.

This pattern removes the coin from viable bullion coin territory and puts it in the territory of “collector coin in all but name.”

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Collectors meanwhile were remarkably consistent in their purchases of the 2012 collector versions. All five designs registered sales ranging from 15,225 to 17,314. As you might expect, the fifth design is the lowest total while the first design is the highest. But the difference is small.

Collector behavior this year might either cement the series at the current level or push the 5-ounce coins toward the fate suffered by the First Spouse gold coin series.

Will we see 5-ounce ATB mintages drop below 10,000 for the collector coins this year? We could.

Will the bullion coin follow along, as only collectors bother with it and fewer of them care any longer?

Both could happen. It depends on what’s in the mind of collectors this year. The economy is getting stronger so collectors will likely be more eager to buy new issues. Only a sudden plunge in the price of silver itself could cause collectors to freeze in their tracks.

It is possible that unlike First Spouse, the ATB coins are both cheaper and made of a popular metal, so collectors could simply delay a verdict. Those who bought last year might feel compelled to buy again to fulfill the duty that commenced in 2010. That wouldn’t bode well for 2014, but it is good enough for 2013.

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