U.S. Mint runs out of American Eagle gold coins

Gold-market bulls couldn't buy publicity much better than this: The U.S. Mint says it has run out of 1-ounce American Eagle gold coins because of rocketing demand.

That may have helped fuel a sharp rebound in gold futures prices Thursday, although the metal also got plenty of help from rising U.S.-Russia tensions, a falling dollar and renewed buying of commodities across the board.

The Mint told coin dealers last week that its inventories of 1-ounce Eagles had been temporarily depleted because of "unprece-dented demand." The Mint sells only to a small number of dealers, which then distribute the coins to other sellers, such as coin shops.

The prices retail investors pay change daily and are based on the market price of gold plus a small premium.

The government has sold 60,000 1-ounce gold coins this month, up from 47,500 in all of July and just 13,000 in June.

Sales of U.S. silver Eagle coins, meanwhile, have been hot all year, leading to rationing of those coins by the Mint.

Coin dealers confirm that they've been swamped with orders over the last month as the price of gold dived from $977.70 an ounce on July 15 to $786 last Friday, the lowest since December.

Small investors apparently saw the price drop as a great chance to buy — the opposite of what normally happens, said Ken Edwards, a partner at California Numismatic Investments in Inglewood.

"Usually we see increasing buying activity as we go up and increasing selling activity as we go down," he said. "Not this time."

On Thursday, gold futures soared $22.70 to $833 an ounce. That's still well below the record closing high of $1,004.30 reached March 18.

The Mint obviously wasn't planning for a spike in demand. Now it's losing gold coin sales to other countries, including Canada, which makes the 1-ounce Maple Leaf.

"We are working diligently to build up our inventory and hope to resume sales shortly," the Mint said.

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