U.S. Mint's gold coin sales sink 40 pct on weak collector interest

NEW YORK Fri Jan 31, 2014 5:20pm EST

NEW YORK Jan 31 (Reuters) - Sales of the U.S. Mint's American Eagle gold coins fell 40 percent year-on-year in January, typically the busiest month of the year, as uncertainty over bullion prices continued to dampen interest from collectors, data showed on Friday.

A move by the U.S. Mint to mix 2014-dated coins with 2013 coins to deplete last year's inventories also weighed on sales, coin dealers said.

The U.S. Mint sold a total of 91,500 ounces of American Eagle gold bullion coins in January, with almost half sold on the first business day of the year, the Mint data showed.

The month's total compared to 150,000 ounces sold in January last year.

The Mint sold 37,500 ounces of that total on Jan. 2 - the first day authorities started accepting orders of the 2014 model from its authorized dealers.

Gold prices rose 3 percent in January, their best monthly performance since August 2013. But that is only a slight rebound from the almost 30-percent drop seen in 2013 as the Federal Reserve continues to taper its stimulus and overall economic conditions improve.

"Business in general has been very quiet. I don't think that people know which way the market is going," said Michael Kramer, president of Manfra, Tordella & Brookes, a major U.S. coin wholesaler in New York.

Also pressuring 2014-dated coin sales is the fact that the U.S. Mint is mixing this year's coins with 2013-dated coins on a one-for-one basis when it sells to dealers until the 2013-dated inventories are depleted.

Kramer said that most of his customers prefer to buy the new 2014 mintage over the older-dated coins.

For American Eagle silver bullion coins, the U.S. Mint sold a total of 4.775 million ounces in January, well below the record 7.5 million ounces sold in January 2013.

Since January 2013, the Mint has been selling silver coins on an allocation, or rationing, basis to its dealers due to limited coin blanks.

Kramer said he would have ordered more silver bullion coins for his customers had more coins been made available for sale.

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