Mint officials to resurrect bullion program

Production would likely be limited to 1-ounce coin
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Published : 02/09/12
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United States Mint officials are working at resurrecting the American Eagle platinum bullion coin program, though the first coins may not be issued until 2013.

No American Eagle platinum bullion coins have been sold since November 2008.

Should the United States Mint resurrect the American Eagle platinum bullion coin program, production would likely be restricted to the 1-ounce size, with none of the three fractional sizes struck, according to Deputy U.S. Mint Director Richard Peterson.

In a Jan. 27 telephone interview with Coin World, Peterson discussed progress on platinum bullion coin production.

“We’re in the discussion phase right now,” Peterson said. “There’s a lot of work to be done to bring a 1-ounce platinum coin to market. I don’t know if we’re going to get there in calendar year 2012. We are amenable to offering a platinum coin. We’ve got capacity. If the planets come into alignment where there’s market demand and supply-chain availability, we’re happy to bring that product out.”

Platinum considerations

The United States Mint has produced four different sizes of American Eagle bullion coins: a 1-ounce $100 coin, half-ounce $50 coin, quarter-ounce $25 coin and tenth-ounce $10 coin.

The last time the Mint produced and offered American Eagle platinum bullion coins for sale was November 2008, when the half-ounce coin was offered for sale.

Platinum American Eagle bullion coin production was suspended in November 2008 because U.S. Mint officials wanted to focus attention on the production of silver and gold American Eagle bullion coins, for which sales were surging, according to Tom Jurkowsky, director of the U.S. Mint’s Office of Public Affairs.

Current U.S. law requires annual production of gold and silver American Eagle bullion coins to demand, but does not mandate production of the platinum American Eagle coins.

The American Eagle platinum bullion coin was introduced in September 1997 with a portrait of the Statue of Liberty on the obverse and a Soaring Eagle design on the reverse. Those same designs have been used on all American Eagle platinum bullion coins of all dates and sizes produced since then.

Starting in 1998, the Mint began using a different reverse design annually on the collector versions of the platinum coins. Production of the Proof version of the American Eagle 1-ounce platinum bullion coin has continued unabated despite the end of production in the bullion program.

Resurrecting the program

An inkling that U.S. Mint officials were contemplating resumption of American Eagle platinum bullion coin production came during the first week of January 2012 when the U.S. Mint’s 2011 Annual Report was released.

The Annual Report revealed that U.S. Mint officials met in November 2011 at the Philadelphia Mint in a six- to seven-hour meeting with its authorized purchasers to gauge demand for American Eagle platinum bullion coins.

The U.S. Mint does not sell its bullion coins directly to the general public. It sells the bullion coins through a network of authorized purchasers for the spot price per troy ounce of the metal on a given day, based on the London PM fix, with a small premium added. Authorized purchasers are required to place minimum orders.

Reaching out

Peterson said the November meeting with authorized purchasers was the first time in more than a decade that U.S. Mint officials met face-to-face with the representatives of the firms.

“This is a significant customer base we have not reached out to,” Peterson said. “Nobody’s been talking to them face-to-face in a long time.”

While discussion at the November meeting in Philadelphia included a review of the requirements for a palladium bullion coin (see later discussion in this article), most of the dialogue focused on resurrecting platinum bullion coin output, according to Peterson.

“We asked the APs what public demand is for platinum, whether there is room to do platinum properly if there’s demand for it in the marketplace,” Peterson said.

Authorized purchasers provided preliminary estimates at the November session, but U.S. Mint officials are awaiting and will collate firmer potential sales figures, Peterson said.

Peterson said the APs said there is demand for the 1-ounce version, but for the Mint not to bother consideration of producing fractional sizes.

According to the U.S. Mint’s sales figures posted online at www.usmint.gov, from September 1997 through November 2008, the United States Mint has sold 534,100 ounces of American Eagle platinum bullion coins, with 328,800 ounces being in the form of 1-ounce coins.

Once U.S. Mint officials estimate projected public demand for the platinum coins, they will have to go out into the supply chain to determine whether the Mint can obtain adequate production blanks, Peterson said, and subsequently enter into a purchase agreement.

Currently, the U.S. Mint obtains 10,000 to 15,000 platinum blanks for its Proof platinum American Eagles from GoldCorp Australia, which operates The Perth Mint in Western Australia.

Although the West Point Mint has been the sole producer of the American Eagle platinum bullion coins since their introduction in 1997, Peterson said the Philadelphia and San Francisco Mints also operate the same coinage presses that the West Point facility uses for the issue and therefore could accommodate production of the platinum coins depending on those facilities’ striking schedules for other coinage products.

American Eagle bullion coins do not bear the Mint mark of the production facility at which the coin is struck. ■

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