I HAVE FINALLY received my proof silver dollar and gold five-dollar bullion coins produced by the U.S. Mint. They are great! They are gorgeous!

And they were long overdue.

On behalf of myself and the many readers who wrote to me over the past six months: "Why the delay?"

The orders and money were sent to the Mint over half a year ago. For each $500 order, at a rate of 6 percent, almost $15 in interest could have been collected or a total of about $4 million!

From the legions of coin and stamp firms around the country I get an abundance of brochures and mailers hawking their collectibles and supplies. But with the tangibles market being a bit lean and printing costs skyrocketing, most of these sales booklets are, understandably, less than enticing.

But I just got one that really grabbed my attention. It wasn't gaudy and didn't have any pop-ups or scratch 'n' sniff. Its design was both simple and historic. It was from the government.

Why the hoopla over a color brochure from the Mint? Simple. After decades of dull government-issue order forms, we are now seeing continuing bursts of creativity from the Mint. First there came the 1976 Bicentennial coins, then the 1984 Olympic and the Statue of Liberty issues. The Mint's catching on to the collector market, as the Postal Service did long ago.

The brochure was about the gold and silver coins being struck to commemorate the adoption of the Constitution; the designs are interesting and appealing. Congress has authorized the minting of 10 million silver "One Dollar" coins and one million "Five Dollar" coins.

Consumers should be aware of what these coins are. Their metal content does not make them good bullion investments.

On the open market, the one-ounce silver dollar selling for $23 to $28 apiece contains an ounce of pure silver, valued today at under $10. The five-dollar gold piece sells for $195 to $225 but contains only one-quarter ounce of gold coin valued at just over $100 today.

That doesn't necessarily make the coins a bad buy. They are, after all, being sold as "limited edition . . . heirloom" numismatic collectibles. (I wish the Mint would omit the word "heirloom," which is used so much for porcelain plate, figurine or thimble collections sold by mail order companies.)

When ordered from the Mint, the silver dollar is priced at $24 in proof condition (highly polished) and $22.50 in uncirculated grade. The five-dollar gold piece is $200 for the proof and $195 for the uncirculated. A two-coin set of the silver and gold pieces sells for $222 in proof and $217 in uncirculated. And, for the set of four, (each coin in proof and uncirculated grades), in a mahogany box, the price is $465.

Ordering information can be obtained from most coin dealers and the coins will be available from them beginning in August. Mail orders should be sent to the U.S. Mint, P.O. Box 85228, Philadelphia PA 19162-0019.

Sadly, the lower-priced mail order coins will follow the same Mint pattern of up to six months in shipment delays, meaning they might arrive by Christmas.

Maybe.