Ron Drzewucki has been a professional numismatist since 1984 and a member of Professional Numismatists Guild (PNG) since 1995. He has for years been a dealer "known as having a superb eye for coins" and "has the experience and discriminating eye to make those important distinctions between grades", according to the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation's newsletter. Ron ran a successful company dealing in certified rare coins and modern coins before joining Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) in January of 2005.. Grading rare, silver, and gold vintage coins are Ron's specialty. Ron was with NGC for 7 years, and was a shareholder for 6 years before selling his shares in May, 2012.
Pamp Suisse and Good Delivery: Profiles in Bullion
Not quite as numerous as national mints but certainly more common than you might expect are the number of private mints and bullion manufacturers in the world. And they didn’t all spring up because of the recent boom in gold prices, either. Some of them have been around a good long time.
Today I wanted to look at one bullion manufacturer in particular: PAMP Suisse. Sure, they’re not the only bullion manufacturer in Switzerland, and they’re certainly not the oldest (Argor-Heraeus is older), but they are one of the world’s elite producers of gold bullion and I’m always impressed with the extra care they give to their products. The world of bullion can be such a matter-of-fact, no-frills place sometimes, and if you’re one of the leaders in your industry AND you care enough about design to stand out from the crowd, then I want to know what makes you tick.
The “PAMP” in PAMP Suisse is an acronym and stands for Produits Artistiques Métaux Précieux. That translates into English as “Precious Metal Artistic Products”, so it’s clear that they focus on artistry and design. No boring blocks of bullion here. What the name doesn’t do, however, is convey just how good they are at refining pure gold and manufacturing the bullion they get so creative with.
Three guesses what Suisse means.
PAMP Suisse started out in 1977, in Ticino, Switzerland. Ticino borders Italy, and is the only province (canton) in Switzerland where the Italian language is predominant (Switzerland is multilingual, speaking German and French elsewhere).
The company is actually part of a larger Swiss precious metals and financial company, MKS (Switzerland) S.A. Oh, by the way (and you might have caught this already), S.A. is like Inc. or LLC in the United States, or GmbH in Germany - a way of designating a certain kind of company or corporation as it operates under Swiss law. I do not know the details.
Besides offering physical gold, silver, platinum and palladium bullion products through PAMP Suisse, MKS is also involved in precious metals trading on the open market, with services for its institutional clients including unallocated margin trading, physical trading, location swaps, purity swaps, precious metal options trading and hedge trading.
PAMP Suisse of course doesn’t handle the financial side of things but balances out its parent company with the actual refinement of gold and other precious metals and the production of a variety of bullion products -- by no means limited to gold bars though they do that very well. These products include industrial use materials and customized bullion items for companies, banks and governments.
I’m pretty sure I’ve seen some legal tender from the Pacific Island nation of Palau in their catalog, if I may return briefly to a recurring thread in my blogs.
They were the first bullion refinery to decorate the “reverse” of their bars with what has become the company’s calling card: Lady Fortuna. She’s usually the first thing you notice about their bullion. When you see her, you know you’re dealing with PAMP Suisse.
And as far as I know, they were among the first to apply holograms to their bullion for security purposes.
Now, for the nitty-gritty.
If you’ve ever found yourself interested in learning more about the bullion market or precious metals trading, you’ve probably encountered a daunting amount of terminology and information. It definitely works a little differently than the numismatic market. Well, writing about PAMP Suisse is as good a place as any to touch on one of the major facets of the bullion market: Good Delivery Accreditation.
“Good Delivery” accreditation means that one of the major world bullion and precious metals trading associations finds that the bullion you produce meets certain high standards, known as Good Delivery specifications.
Always makes me think of people carrying wheelbarrows full of gold bars to some bank and some guy in a suit looking it over with a clipboard and saying “good delivery”.
According to the London Bullion Market Association (LMBA), the group that all traders in the London wholesale bullion market must belong to, the specifications for gold include a minimum of 995.0 fine gold, 350-430 troy ounces, and the inscription of several required markings (the fineness, the refiner’s mark, the year of production and a serial number.
Silver is held to a minimum fineness of 999.0 and a weight of 750-1,100 troy ounces. The same markings are mandatory.
Besides meeting or exceeding Good Delivery specs for the LMBA, PAMP Suisse is also certified with the London Platinum and Palladium Market, COMEX and the Shanghai Gold exchange, among other more obscure entities.
In the world of bullion, such accreditation is vital, and helps business flow at a steady pace as it allows for the innumerable “sight unseen” transactions (to borrow from the numismatic auction industry) that must take place every day in the precious metals markets.
With bullion as a numismatic purchase, Good Delivery is still a good thing but less essential, perhaps. Couple it with a beautiful motif like Lady Fortuna, however, and you’ve got a hit on your hands. Just like PAMP Suisse.