US Coins

U.S. Mint resumes platinum bullion coin sales

The West Point Mint resumed production Jan. 30 of 1-ounce platinum American Eagle bullion coins, the first time platinum bullion coins have been produced since 2008.

Images courtesy of U.S. Mint.

The 2014 American Eagle platinum bullion coins being struck under the U.S. Mint’s resurrected bullion coin program are being produced on planchets fabricated in Australia.

The U.S. Mint resumed production Jan. 30 at the West Point Mint of the 1-ounce .9995 fine platinum bullion coins.

The U.S. Mint has no current plans to strike half-ounce, quarter-ounce and tenth-ounce fractional versions, although some of the Mint’s authorized purchasers report investor and collector interest.

The 2014 coins are the first American Eagle platinum bullion coins struck since the U.S. Mint suspended output late in 2008.

Authorized purchasers will be able to place orders for the 2014 coins on March 10.

U.S. Mint spokesman Michael White said Feb. 26 that the only platinum planchet fabricator qualified for production quantities is Gold Corporation, which operates the Perth Mint in Perth, Australia.

The planchets being supplied have their rims slightly raised, or upset, White said. The planchets are universal planchets used for both Proof and bullion coins, he said.

Currently, the only U.S. producer of platinum and palladium is Stillwater Mining Company in Montana. U.S. Mint officials have not disclosed whether Stillwater is the source for the metal being used for the platinum coin program.

November 2008 is the last month the U.S. Mint recorded sales of any platinum bullion coins, with sales of 800 of the $50 face value half-ounce coins.

October 2008 was the last month the Mint sold all four sizes of platinum bullion coins, including the quarter-ounce $25 coins and tenth-ounce $10 coins.

The U.S. Mint ceased issuing platinum bullion coins in 2008 so it could focus resources on the production and issuance of the legislatively required gold and silver bullion coin programs, which started to experience strong demand. Mint officials announced Oct. 6, 2008, that half-ounce and quarter-ounce platinum coin production had ceased, and that sales would continue with existing inventory only.

Platinum hit a record price of $2,200 per ounce on the London metals market in March 2008.

Program discretionary

The platinum American Eagle program is discretionary by the Treasury secretary, as outlined in 1996 omnibus appropriations legislation, Public Law 104-208.

The platinum American Eagles were introduced with Proof versions in June 1997, with bullion versions in September 1997.

The platinum bullion American Eagles since their 1997 introduction have borne then U.S. Mint Sculptor-Engraver John Mercanti’s “Portrait of Liberty” obverse and then U.S. Mint Sculptor-Engraver Thomas D. Rogers Sr.’s “Soaring Bald Eagle” reverse.

Mercanti’s obverse has also been used for all Proof platinum American Eagles, with the reverse changed annually beginning in 1998.

Resuming the program

Deputy Mint Director Richard A. Peterson informed the Mint’s authorized purchasers March 5 of the decision to resume platinum Eagle bullion coin sales. 

“Eighteen months ago when we met in West Point, you told us you wanted the United States Mint to offer platinum bullion coins  — and we listened,” Peterson said. “Over the course of 2013, our Mint team took all the necessary steps to act upon your recommendation. Thanks to the hard work of our team, we qualified our platinum supplier and, for the first time since 2008, our West Point facility has begin striking coins.”

While Mint officials acknowledge an inventory of platinum American Eagle bullion coins has been amassed, officials declined to disclose the number of coins in the initial inventory.

The U.S. Mint does not sell American Eagle bullion coins directly to the public. The bullion coins are instead sold to a series of authorized purchasers who buy the coins for the spot price of the metal on a given day, plus a small premium. The authorized purchasers may then sell the coins to other dealers in the secondary market or directly to the public.

According to White, the subject of resurrecting the platinum bullion coin program was broached during a meeting at the Philadelphia Mint with authorized purchasers in November 2011.

The attending authorized purchasers expressed continued interest in a renewed platinum bullion coin program during an roundtable with U.S. Mint officials at the West Point Mint on Oct. 25, 2012, according to White.

Of the U.S. Mint’s 13 authorized purchasers, 10 are qualified to place orders for the platinum bullion coins, according to Tom Jurkowsky, director of the U.S. Mint’s Office of Corporate Communications.

The authorized purchasers must place minimum orders for 100 ounces of the new coins. The authorized purchasers will purchase each $100 face value coin for the spot price plus a 4 percent premium.

U.S. Mint spokesman Michael White said the platinum bullion coins will be put into tubes each containing 20 coins, with five tubes per storage box.

Michael Kramer, president of the New York-based authorized purchaser MTB, said March 6 the firm has been preselling the platinum American Eagles. He expects the firm to sell 1,500 to 2,000 coins within the first week of sales. 

Kramer said U.S. Mint officials had expressed anticipation of selling 10,000 coins total during the first week of sales, banking on demand from the Far East where platinum is a strongly desired commodity.

The requirement of 100-coin minimum orders offers little risk for the authorized purchasers should demand not meet projections, Kramer said.

Another authorized purchaser, American Precious Metals Exchange (APMEX) in Oklahoma City, has been preselling the 2014 platinum bullion coins to the public since the Mint’s March 5 announcement.

David Hendrickson, president of SilverTowne in Winchester, Ind., said March 6 that reinstituting American Eagle platinum bullion coin sales by the Mint “is a big deal,” since recent new platinum coin choices have been primarily from Canada and Australia.

“It will add a lot more collectors,” Hendrickson said of the U.S. Mint. “It will bring those buyers back into the market.”

Hendrickson said there has been a fair amount of interest among SilverTowne customers in fractional platinum American Eagles, which are currently not being considered for the Mint’s production schedule. ¦

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