World mints have struggled to keep up with the booming demand for precious metals. The situation has been ongoing for more than a year and frustrated physical silver investors with suspensions, rationing, and delays. There are finally some signs that the shortage may be coming to an end, in particular for the American Silver Eagle bullion coin.
The Silver Eagle shortage first began in February 2008. The US Mint became so overwhelmed with orders for the popular silver bullion coin that they were forced to suspend taking new orders. The suspension was only in place until March 2009; however, sales were resumed on a rationed basis. Authorized purchasers were limited in the number of coins that they could order. Early suggestions indicated that the rationed amounts covered only a fraction of the overall demand.
More than one year later, there are some indications that the situation may finally be abating. As I mentioned in my post on the US Mint's March 2009 Bullion Sales, sales of silver and gold reached extremely high levels. Sales of silver coins were actually the highest monthly total since 1986. Since these are rationed sales, the high level was more of an indication of reduced supply constraints than increased demand.
Recently, there have been more indications at the dealer level that the shortage may be ending. One dealer has reported that delays for delivery of Silver Eagles are shortening, and premiums for the coins is declining. At the height of the shortage premiums were as high as $4.50 over the spot price of silver. Premiums have now pulled back to around $3.00 over spot.
Disclosure: Long physical silver.