Since the election, there have been a number of stories about the “Trump Effect” on the markets. The narrative is that the economic bounce is tied specifically to the election of Trump.
The premise is that the market is reacting to the election of Donald Trump and is the direct cause for the change in the economic factors in the markets. Unfortunately, the narratives being promoted is shortsighted. Markets are not reacting to the election of Trump. The markets are reacting to the certainty that the election is settled.
Markets hate uncertainty. When there is uncertainty, the markets tend to react to everything and sometimes in an exaggerated manner. Fortunately, the economic indicators have been good and the markets have reacted accordingly with exaggeration.
How the markets have reacted to uncertainty in economic news
When looking at the collecting markets, whether it is numismatics or antiques, you can look at the precious metals markets as a key indicator. In basic terms, the price of precious metals is indirectly proportional to the strength of the markets and economy. It translates to if the economy is strong making investing less of a risk, then the precious metals markets will be weaker. it means there is more cash circulating creating discretionary income that buyers use to spend on non-essentials, like hobbies.
A strong market and economy means that investments in businesses are a better bet. Strong employment numbers and the movement of goods and services mean that there is money to be made by investing in business. If there are good investment opportunities, it does not make sense for investors to tie money up in precious metals.
Investment in metals makes sense when investing in their value is better than the expected rate of return on business investments. Once investors turn to precious metals, the price is based purely on supply and demand. Since the supply stream is relatively constant, demand mostly influences the price of metals. If the demand is high and the supply cannot keep up with the demand, the price will rise. What helps regulate the price is that there continues to be a supply but the demand has been known to outpace the supply.
The fact of the matter is that economic indicators have improved. Prices of metals have been steadily dropping since August as the investment in stocks been going up. Even before the election, the markets were in growth mode but skittish with uncertainty.
All the election brought was a certainty. Markets know who the next president will be, who will be in congress, and who will control the state houses. If markets hate uncertainty then the currency that fueled the rally was the removal of uncertainty.
After the week following the election, the markets leveled off with the next goal to figure out what the Federal Reserve would do. With the uncertainty surrounding the December Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting, the drive to record levels stalled. When the FOMC announced the increase in interest rates, rather than reacting negatively, the reactions was as if the markets were saying, “It’s about time.” with the uncertainty of what the FOMC would do, the markets reacted by climbing to record levels.
Market reactions to various news and economic events
In the meantime, the metals markets have been on a steady decline. Since the capital markets are providing a good return on investments, there is no incentive to invest in metals. Although people are buying, the fewer buyers are beating the prices down making bullion-based collectibles cheaper.
Gold free fall began on Election Day 2016
Silver downward trend started on Election Day
What does that have to do with higher end collectibles such as rare coins?
When capital markets are adding to the general wealth of the investor community, they will look for different places to invest their winnings. The new money will start to buy high-end items to supplement their other investments. This is why the collector market thrives during good economic times. Prices of fine art, prime real estate, collector cars, and even rare coins rise.
Rare coins have been resilient since the decline in markets. Rare coins became a safer bet and have attracted new investors which has bucked the trends of the past. This was not lost on the broader investing community who may be looking for diversity in their portfolios.
In review, the markets have been on a six-year rise as the economy has recovered from the Great Recession. Economic indicators are on an extended positive run. The election created certainty in the future of the government and the Federal Reserve created certainty when it raised interest rates. Since markets like certainty, the reaction is not because of the result of the election it is that the election is over.
Certainty is driving the markets, not the details of the results.
- Dow Jones Industrial Average charts courtesy of Yahoo! Finance.
- Gold and silver charts courtesy of Kitco.
While we cannot tour or see inside the Bullion Repository at Fort Knox, Kentucky, the U.S. Mint just released a B-Roll video of scenes inside the gold repository at the West Point Mint.
Gold storage at West Point in 1942 (screen grab)
Gold stored at West Point is called “working stock.” This is the gold that the U.S. Mint uses for striking coins. Depending on the demand, the gold you will see in the video will not be there in a year. It will be used for American Gold Eagles, gold commemoratives, and gold medals cast for congress and the president.
West Point has been called “The Fort Knox of Silver” because it is where the U.S. silver reserve is located. It is also the location for the working stock of silver used by the U.S. Mint. All of the U.S. Mint facilities have working stock of silver used to strike silver coinage. However, since most gold production is struck out of West Point and Philadelphia, most of the working stock of gold is in those facilities.
West Point is the primary manufacturer of gold bullion coins.
In the video at the 50-second mark, someone is weighing a bar of gold. He says the manufacturer claim is that it weighs 400.100 (troy ounces) but actually weighs 400.096. A gold bar weighing 400.096 troy ounces is 12.444 kilograms or 27.435 pounds. With the price of gold currently $1,176.60 per troy ounce (as this is being written), the melt value of that gold bar, which is .9999 fine looking at the stamp on the bar, is $470,752.95.
Video courtesy of the U.S. Mint.
In 1916, the U.S. Mint began to circulate three iconic coin designs that remain favorites amongst collectors. To celebrate, the U.S. Mint issued 24-karat gold centennial versions of the Mercury Dime, Standing Liberty Quarter, and Walking Liberty Half-Dollar. The designs of the coins are the same as their century-old counterparts except the gold specification was added. Earlier this month, the U.S. Mint released the 2016-W Walking Liberty Half-Dollar 24-karat gold coin to complete the series.
2016-W Mercury Centennial Gold Dime
2016-W Standing Liberty Centennial Gold Quarter
2016-W Walking Liberty Centennial Gold Half-Dollar
With the release of the gold Walking Liberty Half-Dollar, every coin design that was part of President Theodore Roosevelt’s “pet crime” that has gone out of circulation, except the Bela Lyon Pratt quarter and half-eagles and the Saint-Gaudens $10 eagle, have been reproduced at least once. Only Victor D. Brenner’s Lincoln Head Cent design remains in circulation even though the reverse has been redesigned a few times.
Isn’t it time we move on?
Let’s forget the legal limitations placed on the U.S. Mint that only allows them to do a tribute like this in gold even though the original coins were struck in silver, how many collectors are really interested in buying these coins? How many can afford these coins?
Judging by the listings for online auctions and dealers that specialize in modern precious metals, it seems that the alleged sellout of the gold Mercury Dime was because of speculation. While there will always be some opportunists in any market, the appearance of the churn in that market feels more like people looking to make money rather than collect, especially since its $209 issue price is more affordable.
Now, both the Standing Liberty and Walking Liberty gold coins are still available. With the limited availability, why aren’t collectors buying these coins?
Aside from the cost of a gold coin, how many younger collectors or even those that are a part of Generation X have any connection to those coins? It is possible we Baby Boomers have seen these coins in circulation, even sparingly. I was able to find Mercury dimes and Buffalo nickels as late as the very early 1970s before they were all removed from circulation. My interest in collecting started when I found Indian Head cents in pocket change.
I am not saying that these designs are unworthy of a tribute. As a collective, they are arguably the most iconic designs of U.S. coinage. But what many consider the best of the best will live on as part of the American Eagle, Buffalo 24-karat, and the soon-to-be palladium bullion programs.
Isn’t it time we move on?
American Silver Eagle Proof
2009 Ultra High Relief Double Eagle Gold Coin
2013-W American Buffalo gold reverse proof obverse
Sales of mint and proof sets are down. Sales of commemorative coins are not meeting expectations where only a few have been sellouts. And the only modern coin that has seen any respect from the Baby Boomer and older collecting community was the 2014 50th Anniversary Kennedy Half Dollar gold coin.
It is time we move on.
The 115th congress will be sworn into office on January 3, 2017. Giving the congress time to get settled including my representative who will be entering his first term in the House, I will write to him to propose a that a silver program similar to the 24-karat gold program be created. Maybe, if coins are offered in silver, a more affordable metal, we can use those coins to generate additional interest in collecting.
It may not be much, but it is a start!
Coin images courtesy of the U.S. Mint.
When I am in the mood for the mental chewing gum that is television, I love to watch what I like to call documentary entertainment. The pros call it infotainment, information entertainment. These are cooking shows or a car-related show that takes a car with a problem and shows us how to fix them. Whether I am watching Chopped, Wheeler Dealers, or All Girls Garage I can find enough interesting watching.
American Silver Eagle Monster Box
Another of my guilty pleasures is How It’s Made on the Science Channel. How It’s Made is simply a show that will demonstrate how every day and other items are manufactured. I am fascinated by seeing the process of manufacturing. Some of the machines that are created to make our everyday items is fascinating. Take something simple as a pencil and think about how a company makes thousands over the course of a day and the non-standard machines required to do this.
The U.S. Mint infrequently posts videos about their coins, people and operations. What I find fascinating is the How It»s Made like videos that shows how they deal with the basic manufacturing process. In the latest video, the U.S. Mint shows how they package American Silver Eagle bullion coins into tubes for shipping to dealer.
The machine is called an Auto Tuber and can be found at the West Point branch mint where bullion coins are struck. After the coins are struck, they are laid flat on trays with the trays being stacked on a rack. From the rack, a machine takes one of the trays, places it next to the Auto Tuber, and pours the coins into the tracks. Using a suction cup fingers, the machine lifts the coins and places them into tube. The tubes are capped, weighed, packaged, inventoried, and sent for shipping.
At the end of the line is a human worker who picks up the packed green boxes you might have seen some dealers advertise for sale as “Monster Boxes” and places them on a pallet for shipping. That is where the one-minute journey ends.
Similar to the standard production videos is the proof set production video from the U.S. Mint in San Francisco that includes a similar machine that places the coins in the holders.
- Monster box image courtesy of Wikipedia.
- Videos courtesy of the U.S. Mint.
If you read my Baltimore show report, you might have noticed that I included images of the Mercury Dime 2016 Centennial Gold Coin. According to the U.S. Mint, the coin is scheduled to go on sale on April 21, 2016 at noon Eastern Time.
Obverse of the soon to be released Mercury Dime 2016 Centennial Gold Coin
Reverse of the soon to be released Mercury Dime 2016 Centennial Gold Coin
With a mintage limit of 125,000 and struck in West Point, the coin will be struck on a 24-karat (.999 pure) gold planchet. It will differ from the original Mercury Dime in that it will be dated 2016. On the reverse the coin will have the “W” mintmark since it will be struck in West Point, include “AU 24K” and “1/10 OZ.” to note that the coin will contain one-tenth ounce of gold. Otherwise, it looks exactly like Adolph A. Weinman’s design that was used from 1916 through 1945.
At 16.50 mm in diameter, the gold coin will be a little smaller than the 17.91 mm silver dime. The gold coin will be heavier (3.11 g) than the original that was made from 90-percent silver (0.7234 troy ounces).
To make this coin, the U.S. Mint is exploiting a loophole in the law that authorized the American Buffalo 24-Karat Bullion Gold Coins program (31 U.S.C. § 5112(q)). According to the law, after the first year of issue (2007), the Secretary can change the design of the coin as long as the design is reviewed by the Commission of Fine Arts and Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee. The U.S. Mint used this law to authorize the 2009 Ultra High Relief coin and the fifty year celebration of the Kennedy half dollar in 2014 with the dual date.
The original Winged Liberty “ Mercury” Dime was a silver coin produced as a result President Theodore Roosevelt’s “pet crime” where he thought U.S. coin design was hideous. Weinman was Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ student who is credited with finishing the work on Saint-Gaudens coin designs after the master sculpture’s death. It was not one of Weinman’s favorite works but it is beloved by collectors.
As a collector who has an almost complete collection of Mercury dime (missing the 1916-D), I was skeptical about the visual appeal of the coin in gold. When I open the folder, I see 30 years of silver coins. Since I try to keep my collection at extra fine (XF) or better, you can get used to seeing that beautiful silver color. When I saw the gold coin in a size that is close to the original dime in the presentation box at the Whitman Expo, I thought it made for a beautiful tribute.
Pricing of the coin will depend on the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA) afternoon price of gold on Wednesday, April 20. That number will be plugged into their pricing grid to determine the opening price of the coin. For example, the LBMA PM price of gold on April 14 is $1,233.85 per troy ounce. If this was the basis of the opening price, we would look up in the table for the price range $1,200.00 to $1,249.99. Since this is an uncirculated business strike coin struck under the American Buffalo act, the table shows that the coin would open at $194.00.
Using my example, this would give the coin a $70.61 or 36-percent numismatic premium over the spot price, which also takes into account U.S. Mint production costs (materials, labor, packaging, etc.).
If the LBMA PM price goes over $1,250 then the opening price of the coin will be $199.00. Being under $200.00 may give the market a psychological boost that may promote quicker sales. Then again, if the price of gold dips below $1,200.00, the coin will open at $189.00.
Putting on my prognosticator’s hat, I predict that the price of gold will go up enough that the opening price will be $199.00.
NOTE: I am just a blogger making a prediction. If you want a better market analysis, ask a professional advisor. They may have a more informed opinion, but we are all just throwing ideas up against the wall trying to figure out what will stick!
What began as an English proverb as “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb” may become a relic of history. Aside from the weather implications the markets are experiencing a lion-like robustness that even has the governors and branch presidents of the Federal Reserve issuing conflicting statements about the future of interest rates.
While the professionals are attempting to figure out what the economic numbers are saying, one thing is clear that the U.S. Mint is on pace to break its 2015 sales for American Silver Eagle bullion coins. March opens with the U.S. Mint announcing that it has another 1 million silver coins ready for sale. This is the fifth time in 2016 that the U.S. Mint has made this type of announcement.
Year to date, gold prices are up about 17-percent and silver prices are up 11-percent. This has not stopped the buying of bullion coins. One Canadian dealer recently informed me that they sold out of a specific silver issue from the Royal Canadian Mint because of high demand, especially from the United States.
This is reaching beyond collectors. While the numismatic world was focused on Dallas for the National Money Show, my business kept me in the D.C. area as a vendor at one of the largest antiques shows in the mid-Atlantic region. Although coins are a very minor part of the show, some dealers that were selling silver coins had high volumes of sales. One dealer reported that he sold out of the 30 American Silver Eagle bullion coins graded MS-70 by the middle of the show’s second day.
An informal poll of attendees to the National Money Show suggests similar sales performances.
Even though there may be areas of the economy that has not caught up to the current economic trends, it is difficult to find an analyst or pundit that does not believe that the current trends will end in the short term.
It is likely that March will go out like a raging bull, even if I could not find a one-armed economist to disagree!
Our final saga of How the Congress Turns (our stomachs), we will finish looking at the technical changes added to the “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act” or the “FAST Act” (H.R. 22) will impact collectors. Back to Title LXXIII, Section 73001 we find:
Title 31, United States Code, is amended —
(1) in section 5112 —
. . .
(C) in subsection (v) —
(i) in paragraph (1), by striking Subject to and all that follows through the Secretary shall and inserting The Secretary shall;
(ii) in paragraph (2)(A), by striking The Secretary and inserting To the greatest extent possible, the Secretary;
(iii) in paragraph (5), by inserting after may issue the following: collectible versions of; and
(iv) by striking paragraph (8);
Remembering that technical changes instructs the Office of the Law Revision Counsel how to correct the law, to understand this change we have to look at the law (31 U.S.C. § 5112(v)) to find that this is a correction to the law about minting palladium bullion coins.
The American Eagle Palladium Bullion Coin Act (Pub. L. 111-303) originally requested that the secretary study the feasibility of striking palladium coins and mint them if the study shows a market demand. Although the study showed that there is a market, it was not overwhelming. Based on the wording of the law, the U.S. Mint opted not to strike palladium coins.
The very first edit is to take away the wording that says to do the study and strike if there is a market to saying that palladium coins will be struck using as much palladium as can be found from United States sources. If there is a higher demand, the U.S. Mint can use sources outside of the U.S. to purchase palladium.
Finally, the last correction not only requires the U.S. Mint to strike palladium bullion coins but to also create collector versions.
2004 Stillwater Palladium Rounds
2005 Canada Palladium Maple Leaf
Palladium is a soft silvery metal like platinum. It is lighter than platinum (atomic number 46 versus 78) and similar to silver (atomic number 47). It has similar uses as silver including in electronics, compounded catalysts, jewelry, and coins. Palladium commands a higher price than silver because it is less available but less expensive than platinum, which is more difficult to mine.
The primary source of palladium in the United States is the Stillwater Mine in Montana. The mines, which also provides the U.S. supply of platinum group metals (PGM), is owned and operated by the Stillwater Mining Company. The American Eagle Palladium Bullion Coin Act was introduced by Rep. Dennis “Denny” Rehberg (R), Montana’s only member in the House of Representatives.
The final entry will discuss how the transportation bill and bad timing will affect American Silver Eagle collectors.
Over the last few years, congress has had this habit of waiting to the last minute to vote on legislation. When they do, they load up this legislation with seemingly unrelated stuff that it is no wonder their ratings are in the single digits.
Let’s take the recent so-called transportation bill. In a stunning 490 pages, which only two-thirds are devoted to transportation issues, congress passed The “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act” or the “FAST Act” (H.R. 22). While a transportation bill may not be that interesting to most collectors, buried down in Title LXXIII is the “Bullion and Collectible Coin Production Efficiency and Cost Savings” section.
2010 Somalia Sports Cars — Not the type of numismatic transportation we are talking about.
Title LXXIII of what is now Public Law 114-94 is short but has a big impact on the future for collectors. Rather than try to digest it all here, I will spend the next few days discussing the impacts. Starting with the technical corrections as part of Section 73001.
Technical corrections to a law is the process where congress votes on the wording changes that either clarifies or changes the limits of a law. It is written in a way that tells theOffice of the Law Revision Counsel, the editor of the United States Code (federal law), how to correct the law. In the case of the these corrections, it is instructing the Law Revision Counsel to edit the law (31 U.S.C. § 5112) that defines all the specification for U.S. coinage.
Today we begin with:
Title 31, United States Code, is amended —
(1) in section 5112 —
(A) in subsection (q) —
(i) by striking paragraphs (3) and (8); and
(ii) by redesignating paragraphs (4), (5), (6), and (7) as paragraphs (3), (4), (5), and (6), respectively;
The effects of these edits change the law that allows the U.S. Mint to do just about anything with 24-karat gold coins. Originally added for the $50 Gold Buffalo coin, the law has been used for coins like the 50th Anniversary gold Kennedy Half Dollar. By removing paragraph (3) that requires the U.S. Mint to submit designs for gold coins to the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts and Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee, the U.S. Mint does not have to involve these people in the design for these gold coins. The immediate impact will be that the CFA and CCAC will not be required to review the designs for the gold coins that they plan to issue to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Mercury dime, Standing Liberty quarter, and Walking Liberty half dollar.
2013-W American Buffalo gold reverse proof obverse
Removing the CFA and CCAC from design decisions may be a good idea when producing coins based on classic design. However, if the U.S. Mint abuses this provision, there is no doubt that congress will yell, scream, call the U.S. Mint bad names, and put the provision back in the law.
The change also removes any limits on mintages of 24-karat gold bullion coins allowing the U.S. Mint to produce as many to meet market demands. It will also allow the U.S. Mint to limit mintages on 24-karat gold bullion coins without asking for permission. This change just codifies current practice.
This first correction also removes paragraph (8) that requires protective covering, such as capsules for the coins. This will allow the U.S. Mint to package these coins for bulk sale as bullion coins adding to the potential for higher sales of gold coins. Although there has been no comment from the U.S. Mint, it is doubtful that they would sell collector versions of these coins in substandard packaging. That has not been their policy.
All that from just a few lines. Stay tuned because tomorrow we learn that congress actually did something right, for a change!
Image of the 50th Anniversary Gold Kennedy Half Dollar courtesy of the U.S. Mint.
As we wind down to the end of the year, the U.S. Mint has been announcing their end of the year production availability for 2015 American Eagle bullion coins. Starting with the announcement on November 14, 2015 that the quarter ounce $10 gold American Eagle bullion coin has sold out and no more will be produced. For 2015, the U.S. Mint has sold 39,500 ounces of quarter ounce American Eagle bullion coin representing 158,000 coins. This represents a 33-percent increase from 2014.
A few days later on November 18, the U.S. Mint announced that the one-tenth ounce American Eagle gold bullion coin has been sold out. For the year, the U.S. Mint produced 980,000 of the one-tenth ounce gold American Eagle proof coins representing 98,000 ounces of gold. This year’s production is a bit more than 73-percent increase over the 565,000 coins struck in 2014.
UPDATE: In a 4:35 PM note (24-Nov-15), the U.S. Mint has announced that the one-ounce gold American Eagle bullion coin has sold out! Orders for 2016 bullion coins will begin on January 11, 2016.
The day after announcing that they will be restricting the production of the American Silver Eagle bullion coins to 1 million coins per week, the U.S. Mint announced that they will continue to produce the coins through the week of December 7, 2015. They anticipate that this will cover their full weekly allocation through Monday, December 14, 2015.
With the price of silver dropping, the U.S. Mint has produced 42,929,500 American Silver Eagle bullion coins to this point. Considering the allocation of 1 million coins per week with four weeks left of sales, the final total of silver coins should be between 46-47 million coins. This would be an increase over last year’s record of 44,006,000.
American Silver Eagle bullion coin image courtesy of the U.S. Mint.
The Royal Mint, an institution that can trace its history back over 1100 years, has produced a video describing their striking standards for bullion coins. The video titled “What is the difference between Proof, Brilliant Uncirculated and Bullion coins?” interviews some of the people on the multi-step journey to create the dies and strikes for different bullion coins.
Royal Mint Striking Standards
As part of the article and video they discuss the differences between the three types of uncirculated commemorative coin finish: Proof, Brilliant Uncirculated, and Bullion. For the Royal Mint, proof are the highest standards followed by brilliant uncirculated then bullion.
While this may be intuitive to experienced collectors, novice and new collectors may be confused by the difference. The Royal Mint does a very good job at explaining the difference in a short, well produced video. It should be interesting to the beginning and expert collector to see how another mint does their work.
Image and video courtesy of the Royal Mint.