2008-W Uncirculated & Proof Silver Eagles
It's been a while since I have taken a look at the 2008-W Uncirculated and Proof Silver Eagles. The sales figures are only one aspect of a tumultuous year for the popular coin series. In this post I will recap some of the events of this year and explain why one of the coins might emerge an unexpected winner.
To start, here are the most recent sales figures from Numismaster's October 1 Mint Stats. Note I have included the figure for the 2008 Annual Uncirculated Dollar Coin Set since it contains the 2008-W Unc Silver Eagle.
Silver Eagle Sales Figures
|2008 Annual Unc Dollar Set||21,578|
2008-W Proof Silver EaglesIn mid-August, the US Mint stopped selling the 2008-W Proof Silver Eagles. As of the writing of this post, the coins are still listed as "Product is Not Available" on the US Mint's website. As explained in a previous post, the coins are not sold out, but temporarily suspended.
The Mint has diverted the entire supply of incoming silver blanks to produce bullion coins in an attempt to deal with the ongoing 2008 Silver Eagle shortage. They have publicly announced their intention to resume production and sales of the 2008-W Proof Silver Eagles once sufficient silver supplies can be obtained. Nonetheless prices for the coins have escalated on the secondary market. A review of some recently completed eBay auctions shows coins selling in the $50 - $55 range.
Even if sales of 2008-W Proof Silver Eagles do not resume, I don't think the mintage is low enough to justify a big premium. A total of 712,378 coins have already been sold. This compares to an estimated final mintage of 827,106 for the 2007 Proof Silver Eagle. On a historical basis, Proof Silver Eagles from the 1990's routinely had mintages in the 400,000's. There is also the risk that coins go back on sale at the original price.
2008-W Uncirculated Silver EaglesEarly in the year, the 2008-W Uncirculated Silver Eagles caused a stir when the Reverse of 2007 Variety was identified. Prices quickly escalated even while the variety was still being shipped in new US Mint orders. This may have contributed to a rush of early sales as collectors hoped to receive the valuable variety. Around the same time, the price of silver was trading around $18 after briefly surpassing the $20 level.
Following the initial rush, sales momentum subsided and later stalled as the price of silver declined to its current level around $11 per ounce. The US Mint is currently selling the 2008-W Uncirculated Silver Eagle for $25.95, which represents a significant premium over the precious metal value. This is likely the main deterrent for current sales.
Notably, sales to date for the 2008-W Uncirculated Silver Eagle have only reached 372,749 (or 394,327 including coins from the 2007 Annual Unc Dollar Set). The estimated final mintage for last year's 2007-W Unc Silver Eagle was 563,711 (653,878 including coins from the 2007 Annual Unc Dollar Coin Set). The 2006-W Unc Silver Eagles had a total combined mintage of 470,000.
I think that the 2008-W Uncirculated Silver Eagle might emerge an unexpected winner.
First, sales figures are tracking very low and have the potential to fall beneath the lowest mintage year 2006. When the 2006-W Silver Eagle unexpectedly sold out, prices quickly shot up. Another aspect to consider is that of the current mintage, approximately 47,000 are the Reverse of 2007 variety. This represents a reduction in supply of the non-variety type.
Second, I'm not sure if too many people realize it, but in the US Mint's strategy of diverting the supply of silver blanks also impacts the 2008-W Uncircualted Silver Eagles. From the US Mint's statement, "We are not using incoming supplies of silver blanks to produce numismatic versions of these coins (American Eagle Silver Proof and Uncirculated Coins); all incoming inventory is being used solely for silver bullion coins..." Potentially, the production of 2008-W Unc Silver Eagles was stopped in June. If this is the case, once the Mint's current supply runs out, the 2008-W Uncirculated Silver Eagle coins will join the proof coins under the status "Product Is Not Available."
Taken together, this presents a historically low mintage and a potential short term catalyst.