As gold prices tumbled from their highest level ever, investors and collectors loaded up on one-ounce “American eagle” gold-bullion coins. The buying spree came to an abrupt halt this week after the U.S. Mint stopped selling the coins for the first time since production began 20 years ago.
“Due to the unprecedented demand…our inventories have been depleted,” the Mint — part of the U.S. Treasury Department — told its dealers Friday. “We are therefore temporarily suspending all sales of these coins.”
The move shocked sellers and collectors of the coins, which are the most widely traded in the U.S. Suppliers became angry as they turned away customers. Theories about the decision’s underlying cause ran rampant — from investors in gold futures to Russia’s invasion of Georgia.
“This whole thing started about the time the Ruskies made their move,” a collector noted in an Internet chat room called goldismoney.info. “It may very well be that the USGovt is preparing for the real financial meltdown by hoarding all remaining gold flows.”
The Mint says it simply was wiped out. It has sold 311,000 ounces of the coins this year — about 50% more than in all of 2007. In the first few weeks of August alone, buyers snapped up 63,500 ounces.
“We are working diligently to build up our inventory and hope to resume sales shortly,” the Mint wrote in a memo to dealers.
The United States Mint
The U.S. Mint has stopped selling American eagle gold-bullion coins.