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Age of bullion coins might be passing

A bullion coin is supposed to be widely recognized as a specific amount of precious metal.

This makes it instantly acceptable to potential buyers and therefore convenient to use.

For anyone it is much less bother than being presented with a coin that you do not recognize and are unaware of weight and silver purity.

That is why Austria’s Maria Theresa taler was used in East Africa and Middle East for centuries.

Not even the 1780 date was changed for fear of losing international trading recognition.

American Eagle? A popular one-ounce bullion coin.

Austrian Philharmonic? The same.

What about the Canadian Maple Leaf?

Up until this week, I would have written that it follows the same formula.

However, I received a press release yesterday from the Dillon Gage Metals Division. It is selling what it calls an “innovative bullion coin.”

It says “the Royal Canadian Mint is issuing a first-ever incused version of its flagship silver Maple Leaf coin.”

The maple leaf design is recessed into the field.

“For coin collectors and investors everywhere, this version of the silver Maple Leaf will be a must-have,” said Terry Hanlon, president of Dillon Gage Metals.

“These editions represent the first time that the Royal Canadian Mint has offered a double-sided incuse strike on a bullion coin. We expect a high degree of interest from our coin dealer networks.”

On the obverse is an incused portrait of Queen Elizabeth II.

I have no doubt that Hanlon is correct in that this will be popular. Many will be sold.

The new design comes from the well respected Royal Canadian Mint.

The coin is the usual .9999 fine and has a face value of $5 just like the regular Maple Leaf.

This new design variant also has the advanced security features that appear on all recent Maple Leaf coins.

This includes the precise radial lines on both sides, a laser-engraved watermark and Bullion DNA anti-counterfeiting technology.

Congratulations to Dillon Gage on introducing a new product.

However, is this new a bullion coin or a collector coin?

Collectors will love it. I know. It is something new to buy.

Bullion investors might like it also. But that remains to be seen.

When is the line crossed between a well-known bullion coin and something that is just a coin with another new design?

In the scramble to sell coins in a very competitive market, we might be able to answer this question in the next few years.

Just how far from a standard design can you go before familiarity is lost and the status of bullion coin disappears also?

Two Maple Leaf coins designs can be handled. What about three? Five? Ten variations?

Collectors in recent years have been buying up whole series of one-ounce silver coins with different designs from wildlife to insects.

That is what collectors do.

But to the proprietor of a coin shop, it is the standard bullion coins that he will recognize and know instantly that he can sell them to others.

Does this matter anymore?

Buzz blogger Dave Harper won the Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog for the third time in 2017 . He is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."

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