A sharp break in gold prices to their lowest levels in more than four years has unleashed a surge in demand for coins, with buyers in Germany queueing out the door and some U.S. investors returning to the market for the first time in years.
Coin dealers and mints from North America to Europe are reporting a surge in coins and small bars that are favored by retail investors, after spot gold on Friday broke below a key technical support at $1,180 an ounce. It was the biggest buying binge since April 2013, when prices fell by $200 in two days.
Activity at Germany's Degussa, one of the largest European gold and silver dealers, was three times the norm, said CEO Wolfgang Wrzesniok-Rossbach.
"We had to open for half an hour longer across Germany on Friday evening because there were so many people queuing up in the branches," he said.
On Friday alone, the U.S. Mint sold 1,425,000 ounces in American Silver Eagle bullion coins, the highest one-day tally since Jan. 13 when the new 2014-dated coins first became available. It also accounted for one-quarter of sales for the entire month of October. Sales on Monday were also above average.
For Gold Eagles, the Mint sold 67,500 ounces for October for its second-highest monthly sales this year. On Monday, sales totaled 12,000 ounces, about one-fifth of gold coins sold in the entire month of October.
"Not only the volume is strong, we are now also seeing retail customers who have not been coming to the market for several years," said Scott Spitzer, chief operating officer of Manfra Tordella & Brookes, one of the largest U.S. coin wholesalers based in New York.
"What's significant now is that the price level has dropped below the $1,180 mark. That captured a lot of attention and it was the rationale for the extra interest," he said.
After gold dived more than $200 an ounce in two days in April last year, an unprecedented scramble to buy everything from coins to jewelry at "bargain" prices followed immediately. However, buying had already dried up just two months later even as prices fell further.
Meanwhile, Chris Carkner, a managing director at the Royal Canadian Mint, said that sales have been "very strong" over the past few days. The Mint only reports bullion coin sales on a quarterly basis.
The RCM has started rationing its Silver Maple Leaf coin sales to its global distributors in response to high demand in September when gold prices fell to a near 2014 low.
"Price-sensitive investors like to buy gold at current levels, it is a great entry point for them," said Daniel Marburger at CoinInvest.com, which sells gold bars and coins online to investors throughout Europe.
(Reporting by Frank Tang in New York; Additional reporting by Jan Harvey in London and A. Ananthalakshmi in Singapore; editing by Matthew Lewis)