Bullions from across the globe: Precious metals basics

Bullions have been significant in several parts of the world
By , Coin World
Published : 05/20/15
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Bullion coin programs exist in many countries.

China first issued Panda gold bullion coins in 1982, with silver Pandas introduced in 1983 and platinum Pandas released first in 1987. The Panda designs generally change with each new year’s issue. The China Pandas are produced at the Shanghai and Shenyang Mints by the China Mint Company. While ostensibly bullion issues, some of the China Panda coins carry a numismatic premium associated with low mintages. The coins are legal tender but carry nominal face values.

Western Australia (one of the Australian states, having authority to issue coins) entered the gold bullion coin market in 1986 and was first in the world to produce Proof .9999 fine gold bullion coins. When the program began, each denomination depicted a different famous Australian gold nugget as a reverse design element. The designs of each were to change annually.

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Western Australia revamped the program in 1989. Public opinion was that the “rocks” on the reverse made for an unattractive coin design. The program was renamed the Kangaroo Nugget, and since then, the coins feature different reverse designs of kangaroos. In 1991, Western Australia launched the Kangaroo Nugget program of 2- and 10-ounce and 1-kilogram .9999 fine gold coins to attract the large-scale precious metal investor. These heavier weight coins are produced in unlimited quantities and are intended to compete with precious metal bars. They are denominated as $200, $1,000 and $10,000, respectively. Platinum and silver bullion coins followed, called the Koala and Kookaburra, respectively.

In 1996, Australia began issuing Lunar Zodiac coins in silver and gold. The coins depict figures of the Chinese lunar new year.

The coins are each struck in the name of Australia by the Perth Mint and are legal tender under Australia’s Currency Act.

Austria issues Vienna Philharmonic gold coins. Prior to 2002, the .9999 fine gold coins were struck with denominations in schillings. However, when Austria switched to the euro on Jan. 1, 2002, the denominations were changed to conform with the new monetary system. The 1-ounce gold Philharmonic, with a diameter of 37 millimeters and weight of 1 troy ounce, is denominated €100. The half-ounce gold piece (28-millimeter diameter) is denominated €50, the quarter-ounce gold (22 millimeters) €25, and the tenth-ounce gold (16 millimeters) €10. The coins are legal tender in Austria.

Austria began issuing a 1-ounce, .9999 fine silver Philharmonic coin in 2008. It has a face value of €1.5 and a diameter of 37 millimeters.

Great Britain initiated its gold bullion program in 1987 with the issue of the 1-ounce legal tender Britannia .9166 fine gold coin. Later in 1987 half-ounce, quarter-ounce and tenth-ounce coins were issued. The obverse depicts the standard crowned bust of Queen Eliza­beth II facing right. The initial reverse design of a standing figure of Britannia is in flowing robes, facing left. Since the initial release, Britannia has been depicted in a variety of ways, such as standing, sitting or driving a chariot.

The Britannia did not become popular with investors as a bullion coin, but Britain’s Royal Mint continues to offer it as a numismatic coin.

A £2 Britannia silver coin joined the annual Britannia gold issues beginning in 1998. The Britannia designs on the silver piece change frequently as well.

The Isle of Man bullion program was launched in 1983 with the issue of the 1-ounce platinum Noble. A tenth-ounce piece first was issued in 1984. Other weights followed: twentieth-ounce, quarter-ounce, 5-ounce and 10-ounce pieces. The coins are struck by the private Pobjoy Mint.

The Isle of Man also produces a gold bullion coinage called the Angel in sizes from the twentieth ounce to 25 ounces. Most of the Angels were struck in small quantities.

Mexico launched its Libertad bullion coin program in 1981 to compete with the bullion coins from Canada and South Africa. The Libertad came on the heels of the sterling silver (.925 silver) 1-ounce “Onza” coins of 1978 to 1980.

Three sizes of gold Libertad coins were issued when the program began in October 1981—quarter-, half- and 1-ounce coins. A twentieth-ounce size was added in 1987, and a tenth-ounce size was struck beginning in 1991. Libertad gold coins prior to 1991 had a composition of .900 gold; thereafter, the composition was changed to .999 fine gold.

The first Libertad 1-ounce silver coins, composed of .999 fine silver, were struck in 1982 but not released until 1984.

In 1991, fractional .999 fine silver Libertad coins were introduced, in twentieth-, tenth-, quarter- and half-ounce sizes. Two- and 5-ounce silver Libertads were first struck in 1996. The 1-kilogram silver Libertad, first issued in 2002, did not become directly available to U.S. collectors until 2003.

The reverse design of the Libertad coinage was changed in 1996, with a three-quarters view of the Angel of Liberty replacing a frontal view of the same.

Though they do not bear a denomination, all silver and gold Libertad coins have legal tender status in Mexico

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