Entries from December 2010 ↓

Palladium Eagles

Back in 1986, the United States Mint launched the first series of gold and silver bullion coins. This included the American Gold Eagle and American Platinum Eagle. The former was issued in one ounce, one-half ounce, one-quarter ounce, and one-tenth ounce sizes with legal tender face values of $50, $25, $10, and $5, respectively. The latter was issued in one ounce size with a nominal face value of $1. The coins went on to become one of the top selling bullion coins in the world.

In 1997, the program was expanded with the American Platinum Eagle. At the time, the price of the metal was around $400 per ounce. This series was initially very successful with about 250,000 ounces sold during the first two years of issue. Recently, the US Mint has not issued the bullion versions of the coins, but only the collector versions.

Within perhaps one year, the American Palladium Eagle will be launched. These coins will be available in one ounce size only and carry a legal tender face value of $10. The designs will be based on Adolph A. Weinman’s Mercury Dime obverse and 1907 AIA Medal reverse. For the year to date, palladium has outperformed gold, silver, and platinum. Will this translate to popularity for the new bullion series?

2010 First Sposue Bronze Medal Set

The annual First Spouse Bronze Medal Set is one of the US Mint’s quirky products that I look forward to each year. Even though these are medals, rather than coins, they have a unique sort of charm.

The designs for each medal are taken from the corresponding First Spouse Gold Coins. Some of the inscriptions are removed, such as those indicating the date, and the metal content and purity. On the reverse, the entire outer circle of inscriptions are removed, and instead the image extends to the entire surface of the medal.

Since these are medals, I don’t really expect them to appreciate. About a year ago, I purchased an entire set of the Presidential medals for much less than the original Mint issue prices. Despite my expectations, the First Spouse medals have actually been retaining their value or appreciating. Auction record for prior year sets, show them trading at higher prices.

The 2010 set includes Abigail Adams, Jane Pierce, James Buchanan’s Liberty, and Mary Todd Lincoln.

ATB Silver Bullion Coins Rationed and Limited

Precious metals investors have gotten used to the idea of rationing silver bullion coins, but the US Mint has taken it to a new level.

The America the Beautiful Silver Bullion Coins are a new bullion series struck in 5 ounces of .999 fine silver. Each over sized coin bears the design of one of the America the Beautiful Quarters. Due to a combination of the unusual specifications, short time frame, and possibly a limited silver supply, the US Mint was only able to produce 33,000 of each design.

That would put these “bullion coins” on par with rarities such as the 1995-W Proof Silver Eagle, which had a mintage of 30,125.

After the US Mint halted the program due to complaints about high prices, they are set to relaunch the program tomorrow. This time around the authorized purchasers will be subject to new terms and conditions.

This will include the requirement that premiums charged to customers be no more than 10% above the cost of acquisition from the US Mint, with a limit of one coin per design per household imposed.

So basically, the few authorized purchasers will be rationed in their supply, and then they must limit this supply to the public. Sounds pretty complicated for a bullion coin, which is supposed to be a commodity like investment product.

2010 Mary Todd Lincoln First Spouse Coin

The latest release in the one-half ounce 24 karat gold coin series honoring the First Ladies of the United States featuring Mary Todd Lincoln. She was, of course, the wife of the 16th President Abraham Lincoln.

A portrait of Mary Todd Lincoln appears on the obverse with inscriptions indicating her name, the order and years of the Presidency, “In God We Trust”, “Liberty”, the date and mint mark. The reverse has a scene of the First Lady visiting wounded Union soldiers. The designers of the coin were Phebe Hemphill (obverse) and Joel Iskowitz (reverse).

The Mary Todd Lincoln Gold Coin will be limited to a maximum mintage of 20,000 coins. This is a 33% increase above the level of the previous release, which can be explained by the higher anticipated demand.

It’s tough to say whether or not the latest coin might sell out of the maximum mintage. Actually, the last First Spouse to achieve this was back in 2007, but at that point the maximum was double at 40,000 coins.

At the very least, this will be one of the more remembered releases of the series, with a potentially wider collector base from collectors of Lincoln in numismatics.

America the Beautiful 5 oz. Silver Bullion Coins

This year, the US Mint will begin a new bullion and collector coin series with some unique aspects. The America the Beautiful Silver Coins are struck in .999 fine silver with a bullion weight of 5 troy ounces. The coins will feature the designs of the current quarter dollar series in larger and sharper version.

This is only the second series of silver bullion coins ever offered by the US Mint, the first being the American Silver Eagle. The coins have the curious legal tender face value of 25 cents, ridiculous compared to the market value of 5 ounces of silver.

On the edge of the coin is “.999 fine silver 5.0 ounce”. The edge of the coin has for some reason become an increasingly popular area to put vital information. The Presidential Dollars still contain the date and mint mark on the edge. The motto “In God We Trust” was of course moved to the obverse after some public controversy.

The US Mint will only have 33,000 of each of the five 2010 America the Beautiful Silver Bullion Coins available. This is a ridiculously small number compared to the anticipated demand. In total, there will be just 825,000 ounces of silver available through the ATB Silver Coins for the first year. In November alone, the US Mint sold 4.2 million ounces worth of silver through the American Silver Eagle Program.

I think the coins will be a challenge to find without paying a ridiculous premium. The bullion coins will be distributed through the US Mint’s network of authorized purchasers, who will get them cheap from the US Mint and then hopefully not mark them up too much when reselling to other bullion dealers or the public. The earliest the average collector can get their hands on them will be after that first round of distribution, by which point prices might be crazy.

In consolation the US Mint will strike 27,000 of each design in collectible uncirculated version. These would be sold directly to collectors through the Mint’s website and phone sales. I would think they would have very low limits (i.e. one per household) to stretch the tiny supply as far as possible.