While the U.S. Mint's design development team at the Philadelphia
Mint is feverishly working toward producing an American Eagle, High
Relief 1-ounce $25 palladium bullion coin, it's highly unlikely the
task can be executed for a coin dated 2016, U.S. Mint Acting Quality
Manager Ronald J. Harrigal said June 27.
Harrigal was in Colorado Springs, Colo., to brief members of the
Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee on the U.S. Mint's progress in the
development of the palladium coin. The CCAC was meeting in Colorado in
conjunction with the American Numismatic Association Summer Seminar.
Harrigal says the success of any palladium bullion coin is
predicated on the Mint's ability to build a network of multiple
vendors to supply sufficient quantities of planchets that meet Mint specifications.
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"The supply chain is key," Harrigal said. The Mint is
currently in the process of securing those vendors, he said.
Harrigal said specifications are currently being developed for
blanks of sufficient dimensions to successfully render the mandated
obverse and reverse designs in high relief. Although it is not yet
pinpointed, Harrigal said, the diameter of the palladium coin will be
between 32.7 millimeters, the diameter of the American Eagle 1-ounce
gold $50 coin, and 38.1 millimeters, the diameter of commemorative
Harrigal disclosed that several years ago, the U.S. Mint secured
some palladium blanks from Goldcorp, one of its suppliers for gold
blanks for the American Eagle coins. The pieces were used to strike,
in quarter dollar size diameter (24.3 millimeters), test pieces using
Martha Washington "nonsense dies." The nonsense dies bear an
obverse portrait of Martha Washington with nonsense inscriptions and
various reverses the Mint uses for test strikes.
While the results looked promising, Harrigal said, the blanks then
weren't produced to the Mint specifications currently being developed,
Harrigal said U.S. Mint officials are consulting with officials at
the Royal Canadian Mint who have experience with producing palladium
coins. The RCM ceased regular production of a Maple Leaf palladium
bullion coin because of the fluctuation in demand.
U.S. Mint officials also talked with potential palladium blank
vendors earlier in 2016 at the World Money Fair in Berlin, Harrigal said.
How the palladium
Eagle came to be
The palladium coin was originally authorized under provisions of
the American Eagle Palladium Bullion Coin Act of
2010 pursuant to the outcome of a feasibility study, which was
conducted in 2012. The study determined that a bullion coin would not
be economically feasible except for the inaugural year, with more
interest shown for a Proof or other collector version.
The palladium coin initiative was put on the back burner until Rep.
Bill Huizenga, R-Mich., sponsored successful legislation signed into
law in December by President Obama that tosses out the feasibility
study, but leaves all other provisions of the 2010 act intact.
What will the the coin
The initiative mandates the Mint produce the 1-ounce .9995 fine
palladium coin at the West Point Mint, or if needed, at any of the
three other U.S. Mint production facilities. The Proof or collector
version is mandated to be struck only at the West Point facility with
the W Mint mark. Harrigal said the finish on the Proof versions would
have to change annually and be different than the previous year's
issue, but the law does not preclude a finish being repeated. Finishes
could include Reverse Proof finishes and other selective Proof
polishing finishes, he said.
The bullion coin would exhibit a "wire brush" finish,
The obverse design for the American Eagle palladium coin is to
replicate sculptor Adolph A. Weinman's Winged Liberty Head introduce
on the dime's obverse in 1916. The reverse is mandated to be the eagle
design Weinman rendered in 1906 for the reverse of the American
Institute of Architects' gold medal first presented in 1907.
Harrigal said the U.S. Mint received AIA approval earlier in 2016 to
access the original 14-inch plaster model for the gold medal. Harrigal
said the plaster and the reverse of a finished AIA gold medal are
being digitally scanned in the development of dies for the palladium
issue. The Mint already has digitized obverse details from the
original dime models that were used when replicating the obverse for
the 2016-W Winged Liberty Head, Centennial gold dime.
Among the difficulties in die and blank development will be the
execution of the upsetting process to form a raised rim, as well as
incorporating all of the mandated reverse inscriptions, which include
the denomination, weight and metal fineness.
The AIA medal reverse design is similar to Weinman's eagle rendered
for the Walking Liberty half dollar introduced in 1916.
The U.S. Mint is already conducting some test strikes using
palladium blanks, Harrigal said, and is finding the metal not as
difficult to strike as platinum. Quality control includes
consideration of the metal's grain and surface hardness, among other
factors, Harrigal said.
"This could be a fairly efficient program for us,"
Another factor the U.S. Mint will have to keep in mind is the highly
reactive nature of palladium. The metal picks up contaminants quickly,
Harrigal said, which is why it is often used in emission controls in
automobile catalytic converters.
What is palladium?
Palladium is a precious metal that is labeled Pd on the periodic
table of elements, where it has the atomic number 46.
While it's in the platinum family of metals, palladium is not in the
same ballpark in terms of value.
According to Kitco, one ounce of palladium was valued at $588 at
4:59 p.m. ET on June 29, while platinum's spot price was $1,008 per ounce.