Here is a superb example of a 2006 one troy ounce U.S. Gold Buffalo coin. Although not traditionally considered collectors' pieces, modern gold bullion coins that possess strong designs and low mintages will inevitably become favorites of the numismatic community.
Perfection is a something that most of us have chased at one time or another. Unfortunately, perfection is a notoriously fickle thing. Almost everything in the world has its quirks or flaws. Regardless of how great your mobile phone might have seemed at the wireless dealer, once you've used it for a month, you know its shortcomings. Likewise, your late-model car may look great from a distance, but get up close and the ugly little scratches and dents become all too visible. Even our interpersonal relationships have their warts, rarely achieving the ideals that we initially envision for them.
However, there is one thing in life where perfection isn't just possible, but is practically mandatory - gold bullion coins. These paragons of tangible wealth nearly transcend the material world in their quest for absolute perfection. Struck by the most well-respected government mints from around the world, these internationally recognized bullion pieces are minted from the very purest gold, using the very latest industrial processes. Free from even the smallest of blemishes, gold bullion coins embody the ideal of physical perfection. In a world of digital crypto-currencies and virtual offshore accounts, gold bullion coins are pristine, physical treasure that you can hold in the palm of your hand.
Collecting gold bullion coins offers the aspiring numismatic connoisseur a lot of advantages over collecting older coins. First, bullion coins are made out of gold, giving them an immediate cachet that more pedestrian coinage lacks. And these masterpieces in gold are also usually struck in a variety of sizes to accommodate every budget. Governments mint everything from small, but affordable 1/20 troy ounce gold bullion coins right up to impressively hefty one troy ounce examples.
Another overlooked benefit of gold bullion coins is that there are rarely any key or rare dates. This puts a complete collection of most bullion series within the reach of the average collector. This contrasts markedly with traditional coin collecting, where ultra-expensive key dates often render complete sets unrealistic.
Finally, the monetary risk of collecting gold bullion coins is generally quite limited because most of what you are paying for is bullion value. Under normal circumstances, high quality, collector-oriented gold bullion coins with substantial numismatic potential can be purchased for a modest 5% to 25% over spot. Even for very rare pieces, the premiums are rarely more than 50% over spot.
The Mexican Libertad is one of these great gold bullion coin bargains. In fact, I view it as the hidden investment sleeper of the gold bullion coin world. Struck intermittently from 1981 until the present, gold Libertads come in one troy ounce, 1/2 ounce, 1/4 ounce, 1/10 ounce and 1/20 ounce sizes. From 1981 until 1988 the Mexican gold Libertad series was struck in 0.900 fine gold, but starting in 1991 the composition was changed to pure 24 karat gold.
The gold Libertad obverse features Mexico City's famous Angel of Independence statue in the foreground flanked by the volcanoes Popocatépetl and Iztaccihuatl in the background. Mexico's national emblem, a golden eagle tearing apart a rattlesnake while sitting atop a cactus, graces the reverse. Libertad gold coins underwent a redesign in the year 2000. Although the major design elements were not changed, they were updated to a more modern aesthetic.
The Mexican Libertad is one of the lowest mintage regular issue gold bullion coins available in the market today. Excluding the first year of production, when mintages were significantly higher, the one troy ounce Libertad gold bullion coin has averaged less than 15,000 specimens per annum. As shockingly low as this number might seem, the mintages on the gold Libertad fractional coins are even lower. Gold Libertad proofs have the lowest mintages at all, with numbers struggling to reach the four-figure mark in many cases.
Mexican Libertad Gold Bullion Coins For Sale
The Australian Gold Nugget/Kangaroo is another great bullion series for the aspiring collector or investor. First minted in 1986, the Nugget/Kangaroo features a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II on the obverse. The reverse featured famous Australian gold nuggets for the first three years of production before switching over to kangaroos, hence the reason the series is commonly called the Nugget/Kangaroo. As an added incentive for investors, the kangaroo design on the reserve is altered every year to increase collector interest.
Minted in pure gold, the Australian Gold Nugget/Kangaroo has been struck in sizes ranging from the monstrous 1 kilogram (32.15 troy ounces) coin to the diminutive 1/20 of a troy ounce (1.56 grams) coin. Mintages have generally been modest, with the 1 troy ounce gold Nugget/Kangaroo averaging only 152,000 specimens every year from 1986 to 2016. The maximum mintage was 2013 when just over 341,000 examples were coined.
Australian Kangaroo/Nugget Gold Bullion Coins For Sale
China's entry in the global gold bullion coin competition, the Chinese Panda, was first issued in 1982. Struck from 99.9% pure gold, Chinese Panda coins feature Beijing's famed 15th century Taoist Temple of Heaven on the front. The back has a depiction of a Chinese giant panda in a natural setting that is redesigned every year.
From the series' inception in 1982 until 2015, Pandas were struck in 1 troy ounce, 1/2 ounce, 1/4 ounce, 1/10 ounce and 1/20 ounce sizes. However, starting in 2016, the Chinese authorities decided to embrace the metric system. As a result, more recent Chinese gold Panda coins have been issued in 30 gram, 15 gram, 8 gram, 3 gram and 1 gram sizes.
Chinese Pandas are some of the most popular modern gold bullion coins with collectors due to their attractive designs and quintessentially Chinese cultural themes. In addition, mintages have been very limited for a bullion issue, with 1 troy ounce pieces averaging an annual mintage of less than 60,000 annually from 1982 through 2006. Due to their perennial popularity, the Chinese government increased mintage numbers modestly starting in 2007.
Chinese Panda Gold Bullion Coins For Sale
The final gold bullion coin I want to showcase is the American Buffalo. These .9999 fine pure gold coins feature an adaptation of the acclaimed U.S. Buffalo Nickel, which was originally minted between 1913 and 1938. The U.S. Buffalo gold coin has original artist James Earle Fraser's iconic Indian head bust on the obverse and his powerful rendition of a wild bison on the reverse.
Unlike most other gold bullion series, the U.S. Gold Buffalo is a relative newcomer, having only premiered in 2006. American Gold Buffaloes are also the first coins the U.S. mint ever struck from pure, unalloyed gold. With the exception of 2008, when 1/2, 1/4 and 1/10 ounce pieces were also struck, the mint has made the curious decision to issue the coins in only one denomination - the one troy ounce size.
Mintages for U.S. Gold Buffaloes are surprisingly low for a popular U.S. bullion series. Except for the first year of issue, 2006, one troy ounce pieces have averaged just over 225,000 minted every year. These mintages include both uncirculated bullion coins and proof collector coins. These numbers are exceptionally low compared to its counterpart program, the American Gold Eagle bullion series, which has averaged over 600,000 one troy ounce coins per year.
U.S. Buffalo Gold Bullion Coins For Sale
For those collectors who are looking for even more exclusive gold bullion coins, the U.S. mint recently released a set of three very special issues. These bullion pieces borrow iconic U.S. coin designs from the early 20th century - the Mercury dime, Standing Liberty quarter and Walking Liberty half dollar - beautifully rendered in pure 24 karat gold. These three classic American coins were faithfully updated and released in 2016 on the 100th anniversary of their original issue in 1916.
The 2016 U.S. Walking Liberty Centennial gold half dollar weighs a full 1/2 troy ounce of .9999 fine gold and measures 1.063 inches (27.00 mm) in diameter. The front of the coin depicts Liberty confidently striding forward while the sun rises majestically behind her on the horizon. The reverse of the Walking Liberty Centennial gold piece features an American bald eagle nobly perched on a rocky outcropping. The original Walking Liberty half dollar design was so well loved that it was also adopted for the obverse design for the ubiquitous American Silver Eagle bullion coin.
2016 U.S. Gold Walking Liberty Half Dollars For Sale
The 2016 U.S. Standing Liberty Centennial gold quarter weighs 1/4 of a troy ounce of pure gold and has a diameter of 0.866 inches (22.00 mm). The obverse shows the personification of Liberty standing serenely with a shield in her left hand and an olive branch in her right hand. The reverse depicts an eagle in flight with its wings outstretched.
2016 U.S. Gold Standing Liberty Quarters For Sale
The 2016 U.S. Mercury Dime Centennial gold coin is struck from 1/10 of a troy ounce of 24 karat gold and is heavier than the original silver Mercury dime. The gold Mercury dime measures 0.650 inches (16.50 mm) in diameter. The front shows the head of winged Liberty, which is often identified with the ancient Roman god Mercury, while the reverse features a Roman fasces entwined with an olive branch.
2016 U.S. Gold Mercury Dimes For Sale
These three gold centennial issues have extremely limited mintages: 125,000 pieces for the dime, 100,000 for the quarter and only 70,000 for the half dollar. These coins are also notable because their original silver analogs often suffered from weak strikes due to the complexity of their designs. This is an oversight that the United States mint was finally able to rectify with modern minting technology, giving collectors the opportunity to own some truly iconic gold coins in stunningly pristine condition.
However, in my opinion, the ultimate gold bullion coin for the truly discerning collector is the 2009 Ultra High Relief Double Eagle. The name is quite a mouthful, but this coin is worthy of its weighty title. It is a one troy ounce bullion piece struck from pure 24 karat, .9999 fine gold. But any similarity with lesser bullion coins promptly ends there. In order to understand why the 2009 Ultra High Relief Double Eagle is so special, you need to first know the history behind this unique piece of numismatic Americana.
In the early 20th century, President Theodore Roosevelt wanted to give the burgeoning American nation a coinage to rival that of the ancient Greeks. Ancient Greek coinage has been renowned through the millennia for its incomparable beauty, in particular its high relief designs. High relief is when a coin's devices (designs) are substantially raised above its flat background, or field, giving an impressive, almost sculptural effect.
President Roosevelt commissioned renowned artist Augustus Saint-Gaudens to create new dies for the U.S. double eagle, or $20 gold piece. Saint-Gaudens then designed the legendary St. Gaudens double eagle, which has been copied and adapted many times over the years. It features a robed lady Liberty boldly moving forward while holding a torch in her right hand and an olive branch in her left hand. The reverse portrays a noble American eagle soaring over a brilliant sunrise.
However, when Saint-Gaudens tried to have these magnificent new coins struck at the mint he ran into technical problems. The design was rendered in such high relief that the minting technology of the time was not up to the task of fully striking the coins. Consequently, the dies had to be redesigned in lower relief in order to accommodate the minting technology available.
Only 11,250 high relief double eagles were struck in 1907 for circulation before the dies were changed. These special high relief gold coins are especially coveted by knowledgeable U.S. coin collectors. In perennially high demand, prices generally start in the low five-figures for worn examples and rapidly escalate for nicer specimens.
In 2009, the U.S. Mint decided to finally right this historical wrong. Its Director, Ed Moy, resurrected the original high relief St. Gaudens double eagle design and adapted it into a limited edition, one troy ounce gold bullion coin. Except this time, the mint would make sure it would be fully struck in gloriously high relief as sculpture Augustus Saint-Gaudens originally intended.
Saint-Gauden's original plaster dies were pulled out of their hundred year storage at the U.S. Mint and digitally scanned. With the resulting digital design, the die was updated with the year, 2009, and the motto "In God We Trust", which was not present on the original 1907 version. In addition, four stars were added to the existing 46 stars around the rim of the obverse to reflect the additional four states that had joined the Union since 1907.
And with that, a masterpiece was born. The 2009 Ultra High Relief Double Eagle measures 1.0630 inches (27.00) mm across and an unbelievable 0.1575 inches (4.00 mm) in thickness. These impressive gold bullion coins have been meticulously struck in the highest relief and to the most exacting standards. In fact, the standards were so exacting that it took a century before the technology was developed to make them a reality. And, of course, the mintage for this one year type is low, with only 115,178 pieces in existence.
2009 U.S. Gold Ultra High Relief Double Eagles For Sale
Nearly all of the gold bullion coins I've presented here are pure, 24 karat gold. While that is partially coincidence, there is also a solid financial reason to recommend it: attrition. Because pure gold is very soft, circulating gold coins have traditionally been alloyed with a small amount of other metals (primarily copper and silver) in order to harden and toughen the gold. However, gold bullion coins are not intended for circulation and can, therefore, be made from pure gold.
But as a result, 24 karat gold bullion coins frequently acquire scuffs, scrapes, rim bumps or other minor damage if they are mishandled. This doesn't impair their value as bullion pieces, but it does render them unacceptable to serious coin collectors. So the already small populations of the collectible gold bullion coins listed above will inevitably be whittled down further over time via carelessness and accidents. The remaining pristine coins will, predictably, appreciate in value as they become rarer.
There are a host of other very popular gold bullion coins that I have not mentioned. These include American Gold Eagles, Canadian Maple Leafs, British Britannias, Austrian Philharmonics and South African Krugerrands. I want to make it clear that while these coins certainly have some collectible attributes, it is unlikely they will ever be as desirable as the gold bullion coins specifically highlighted in this article.
Mintage plays a significant role here. The Mexican Libertad, Australian Nugget/Kangaroo, Chinese Panda and U.S. Buffalo series have never had a mintage higher than one million pieces in any year through 2016. However, American Gold Eagle and Canadian Maple Leaf mintages have commonly exceeded this amount. Since 2013, British Britannias have only been limited in supply by the number of coins the market will absorb in any given year. South African Krugerrands, one of the only gold bullion coins available in the 1960s and 1970s, were struck by the tens of millions during that period. High mintages for gold bullion coin series are not conducive to future numismatic price appreciation and should be avoided.
Another factor that makes certain gold bullion coins more collectible than others is design. Modern coins, particularly commemorative coins, have been notorious for decades for the overall poor quality of their designs. The specific bullion issues discussed in this article buck the trend, making truly aesthetically pleasing designs available to the collecting community.
In contrast, many lesser gold bullion coins wallow in their own stylistic mediocrity, content to be thoroughly uninspiring, albeit utilitarian. There are degrees of nuance here, of course. Canadian Maple Leafs and American Gold Eagles both have reasonably pleasing, although not exceptional, design, but are rendered less desirable by their high mintages. Specially struck proof and burnished uncirculated American Gold Eagle issues are special exceptions, as they have very low annual mintages of tens of thousands or fewer.
In any case, it is important to collect what you like. But if numismatically-oriented investment return is important to you, then low mintage figures coupled with compelling design is a must. While larger 1 troy ounce gold bullion coins should theoretically be more desirable than smaller examples, this size advantage may be offset by the lower mintages and better affordability that fractional issues enjoy.
Condition, as always, is also a key factor. Because modern gold bullion coins are manufactured to such high standards, imperfections that would normally be acceptable on older collector coins are absolutely forbidden here. Examples include scratches, nicks, scrapes or any other damage visible without magnification. Modern gold bullion coins are one of the few collecting areas where absolute perfection is almost a necessity.
Gold Bullion Coin Sets For Sale
Prices for gold bullion coins usually track the spot price of gold fairly closely. Common date one troy ounce U.S. Gold Buffaloes and Australian Nugget/Kangaroos sell for relatively small marks ups of about 5% to 10% over bullion value. Expect to pay a bit more for one ounce Chinese Pandas and Mexican Libertads. The premiums on these bullion pieces can range from about 8% on the low end to well over 100% for some of the rare Chinese Pandas.
The 2016 U.S. Centennial gold coins also command substantial premiums over their bullion value. Currently, the alluring U.S. Walking Liberty gold half dollar trades with a premium that is about 40% over spot. The gold Standing Liberty quarter and Mercury dime both have higher premiums than this. But these elevated premiums are to be expected, as smaller gold bullion coins usually have higher premiums than their larger counterparts.
The outstanding 2009 Ultra High Relief Double Eagle sports a hefty 50% premium right now. However, its premium has been even higher in the recent past. Honestly, a 50% premium over spot seems pretty tame to me for the ultimate gold bullion coin, but you can make your own assessment.
It is the height of irony that we live in an age when the world's central banks pursue rampant inflationism while their national mints simultaneously strike tremendously beautiful and profoundly collectible gold bullion coins. Consider it a sign of the times, a reflection of the developed world's monetary cognitive dissonance. Whatever its cause, don't let this opportunity slip by you. Gold bullion coins currently offer one of the lowest risk investment options for the savvy coin collector or shrewd tangible asset investor.