Visitors to the United States Mint's website looking to purchase the 2012 American Eagle Silver Proof Coin have been met with disappointment for the last few days. Instead of the option to purchase the 2012 Proof Silver Eagle, a note stating "This product is temporarily unavailable for product repricing" is shown.
The repricing statement is almost undoubtedly the result of recent activity in the silver market. The precious metal slumped to a new 2012 London Fix low of $26.67 an ounce last Thursday, July 12, 2012. When the 2012 Silver Eagle made its debut on April 12th, the London Fix for silver was $31.47 an ounce.
Unlike numismatic gold coins from the Mint, there is no published rate schedule for silver coins based on recent precious metal market activity. Instead, the US Mint apparently monitors the movement of silver and has halted sales when large swings are noted.
The coins are returned to availability once the price of the precious metal normalizes. If the price of silver remains near pre-suspension levels, the Proof Silver Eagle will likely return at $59.95, the same price it was before suspension. If a downward trend in the market is shown, the coin may be offered at a lower price.
For the record, the London Fix on Friday (the day after the new 2012 low was established) sky-rocketed up to $27.48 an ounce - an increase of $.81 from that low. Today, July 16th, the London Fix was $27.05 an ounce.
Silver Eagles made their debut in 1986 in two varieties - this proof coin and a related bullion Silver Eagle. Both have been issued annually since that point with the exception of the proof coin which was suspended for one year in 2009 as the Mint directed all available blank planchets towards the bullion production.
The two Silver Eagle coins were joined in 2006 by an uncirculated Silver Eagle (also struck for collectors like the proof coin). All three varieties showcase the same basic designs including the obverse image of "Walking Liberty" by Adolph A. Weinman first seen on the 1916-1947 half dollar coin. The reverse shows a heraldic eagle with shield design by US Mint Engraver John Mercanti.
Of note, the 2012 American Eagle Silver Uncirculated Coin is scheduled to be released by the US Mint on August 2, 2012.