U.S. Mint sales of 2014 American Eagle silver bullion coins ended Christmas Eve, finalizing a record year in which demand for the coins often exceeded supply.
"The United States Mint officially sold out of American Eagle silver bullion coins," said Adam Stump, deputy director of the U.S. Mint’s Office of Corporate Communications. "The Mint sold 44,006,000 Silver Bullion ounces in 2014."
U.S. Mint authorized dealers purchased the final allotment of 75,500 coins on Wednesday, lifting the Silver Eagle sales total for December to 2,459,000. Buyers will have to wait nearly three weeks for more. New 2015-dated editions go on sale Jan. 12, 2015.
American Silver Eagles have been produced annually since 1986, struck in one ounce of .999 fine silver. Falling silver prices, down about 19% this year, have made them more attractive as buyers pay less to get what they want. A flagship product for the United States Mint, Silver Eagle sales topped 400 million on Dec. 8, the same day 2014 sales broke the previous annual record set just last year at 42,675,000 coins.
In 2011 and to increase availability, the United States Mint at San Francisco started producing American Eagle silver bullion coins in addition to the United States Mint at West Point. The U.S. Mint also implemented an allocation system that restricts how many are sold to evenly distribute supplies. That same system will be in place when the 2015-dated versions are released.
Today, the agency has the production capability to meet demand but it cannot order enough silver blanks to make the coins. Blanks are the round metal discs that are fed into coining presses, get stamped under tons of pressure between dies bearing designs, and then turn into coins. (See how West Point makes Silver Eagles.)
U.S. Mint bullion coins are sold in bulk through a network of "Authorized Purchasers" who consist of major coin and precious metals dealers, brokerage companies, and other participating financial intermediaries. Authorized Purchasers pay $2 per Silver Eagle, plus melt value. In the secondary market, bullion coins are usually priced at a few percentage points above the latest value of their precious metal content.