March 17, 2009 – Gold And Silver Spot Prices II

The US Mint has been producing the 1-ounce silver Eagle coin since 1986 when the consumer bullion program was created for gold, silver and platinum. Unlike coins with a face-value, the Eagles are designed to closely track gold and silver spot prices. With the exception of the UK’s British Silver Britannia that is minted as 95.8% pure (as most silver jewelery is), all major silver bullion coins are minted as 99.99% pure.

But there are other bullion coins that are of great interest as gold and silver investments. For instance, just north of the border, the Canadian mint has been producing a 1-ounce silver since 1988, specifically to compete with the Silver Eagle. Mintages of the Silver Mapleleaf were massive in 2007 and 2008, easily keeping up with demand by flooding the market with millions of ounces. Easily available to anyone interested in gold and silver investing, the Silver Mapleleaf can be found at just about any dealer in the US in current and recent dates.

One of the first of the major silver coins to hit the modern, global market is the Chinese Silver Panda, introduced in 1983. Unlike many other silver bullion coins, these are released in many sizes, ranging from ¼-troy ounce to 1-kg (35.3 troy ounces). These fractional Pandas have made it very easy for even the most modest budget to be able to afford gold and silver coins. Early mintings of these coins were not quite 1-ounce of pure silver, and were adjusted in 1989 to be more easily bought and sold. Though many counterfeit Silver Pandas have been found, they can easily be distinguished by weighing them.

The Mexican Silver Libertad was also brought into production in the early 1980s. These coins share a design with the also popular gold Libertad coins. Like the US Silver Eagle coins, their Mexican counterparts are also minted as a limited number of proof sets, usually limited to a few thousand per year. They are sold in sizes ranging from 1/20th-ounce to 1-kg, making even small coins available to anyone.

Of much more recent manufacture are the Austrian Silver Vienna Philharmonic coins, minted since 2008. It’s design is exactly the same as the long-time best selling gold Philharmonic coins. The Austrian Mint also produces a large volume of commemorative gold and silver coins each year, though these are not as highly prized for investment as gold and silver bullion.

Australian Silver Kookaburra and the Australian Silver Kangaroo are manufactured by the Royal Australian Mint and the Perth Mint, respectively. Both in production since the early 1990s, these coins are also 1-ounce of solid silver, also sold in larger increments up to 1-kg. Rises in gold and silver spot prices have created very heavy demands on these mints, but Australia’s gold reserves remain massive.

International mints can be a bit tricky to get current mintage figures from. This is especially true of mints outside North America and Europe. While most coins are dated and given a nominal face value in their home countries, most people buying bullion coins to take advantage of rising gold and silver spot prices are unconcerned about rare coins. That said, some bullion coins have some numismatic value.

Arthur McGuire

March 17, 2009

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