For the latest design of the America the Beautiful Five Ounce Silver Coins, the numismatic version is currently outselling the bullion version. This is the opposite of the typical situation.
Bullion versions of US Mint coins are sold in bulk quantities to authorized purchasers based on prevailing precious metals prices plus a small mark up. These coins are resold to other dealers or the public, once again based on the precious metals price plus a mark up. Typically, sales take place in larger quantities to customers who are primarily interested in the metal content. As precious metals investment products, these bullion coins experience broader demand and higher sales.
Numismatic versions of US Mint coins are sold individually or within small sets directly to the public. The coins may have a different finish or other distinguishing characteristics from the bullion versions, sometimes carry limited mintages, and are always priced at a higher mark up. Since the coins are marketed as collectibles, these numismatic coins usually experience lower sales than bullion.
Based on the most recent sales information, the El Yunque Five Ounce Silver Coins have sold 7,900 of the bullion version and 8,957 of the numismatic version. For all prior releases, the situation has always been the opposite. (Figures in italics are still available for sale.)
ATB 5 oz. Bullion vs. Numismatic Sales
While this might change over the course of the year, it leads to a few observations.
1.) As a bullion program, the ATB 5 oz. coins have not been very successful. From the beginning, the ATB bullion coins have always seemed to attract greater interest from coin collectors than bullion investors. It was likely the high level of interest from collectors that caused the US Mint to boost production and authorized purchasers to place heavy orders for the initial 2011-dated releases. After collector demand subsided, the demand from precious metals investors proved to be minimal.
For the current year through the end of May, the US Mint had sold 13,600 of the five ounce ATB bullion coins compared to 14,534,000 of the one ounce American Silver Eagles. This works out to sales of 1 five ounce coin for every 1,069 one ounce coins. As a comparison, for the Perth Mint’s 2011 Silver Lunar releases, sales included 8,030 five ounce coins and 300,000 one ounce coins. This works out to 1 five ounce coin for every 37 one ounce coins.
2. ) Collectors who are pursuing the numismatic versions of the ATB 5 oz. coins may also want to acquire the bullion versions starting with the 2012 releases. Unlike the situation for last year when the US Mint struck each design with a high initial mintage, this year the US Mint has indicated that they will produce the coins to demand. If demand continues to be low, mintages could be low.
3.) If sales continue at very low levels, it becomes a possibility that the US Mint may suspend or curtail the program. Under Public Law 110-456, it is not specifically mandated that the bullion coins must be minted for every year. The exact wording is: “The Secretary shall strike and make available for sale such number of bullion coins as the Secretary determines to be appropriate that are exact duplicates of the quarter dollars…” The US Mint and Treasury Department have come up with some interesting interpretations of the law in other situations, and zero is technically a number…
With regards to the numismatic versions, these coins are produced under authority 31 U.S.C. §5111(a) (3), which provides the Secretary of the Treasury with broad authority to design, produce and sell numismatic items. As such, there is no requirement or guarantee that the numismatic versions will continue to be produced.