Are you willing to purchase platinum American Eagle coins? These can be either the standard circulation-quality bullion coins, or the proof collector versions.
Deep down, have you ever wanted to own any of them?
It is not my place to tell people not to collect something, but then neither is it my place to paint such rosy pictures that it distorts the current collecting reality.
I own precisely one platinum coin. It is a 1997 one-tenth ounce American Eagle bullion piece. I did not buy it. I received it as a token of appreciation from the Milwaukee Numismatic Society for speaking at their annual dinner shortly after the platinum coins first hit the market.
It is a nice coin. It has the Statue of Liberty on it. I like that. I can note also that the price of platinum has risen since I received the coin. I like that also.
However, I have never caught myself daydreaming about buying platinum coins. I believe this to be true about nearly every reader of this paper. However, if my thinking is out of date, let me know. That is why I have asked the question at the beginning of this column. Send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let me know and I will share your thoughts with readers.
I turn to the topic of platinum this week because there has been a little discussion going on among some hobbyists about the low mintages of the platinum American Eagles in 2005 and some of the individual low mintages of platinum American Eagles from prior years in the 1997-2006 run.
No question, the mintages are low. If they applied to Lincoln cents, Barber quarters or Seated Liberty dimes, prices would probably march higher. However, these mintages are not related to those classic collector coins, the coins that most collectors are familiar with and emotionally tied to. These mintages are tied to platinum American Eagles.
That brings me to the second half of the supply and demand function. Yes, a low mintage should make all collectors sit up and take notice. Something might be afoot there, to borrow a phrase from Sherlock Holmes, the famous Arthur Conan Doyle detective.
However, mintages need to be compared to the demand side of things. Who wants these low-mintage coins? So far, they haven?t taken the hobby by storm. Nobody grew up spending platinum coins. Nobody in the hobby was terribly conversant with platinum before the advent of automotive catalytic converters other than collectors of Russian coins, where platinum pieces of the 19th century are true rarities. Perhaps a fan or two of the old Have Gun, Will Travel TV show learned about platinum as I did as a child.
In the first instance, it is familiarity and the possible emotional connection that draws collectors to certain coins. This font of hobby good will is absent for platinum American Eagles. That leaves two other reasons for buying the coins. The first of these is an expectation that the price of platinum bullion will rise far enough to cause buyers of platinum American Eagles to make a profit. This may happen. I am on record as forecasting a 2006 gold price of $650 an ounce. Platinum would likely rise in tandem.
The second reason, which I deem far more important, is the expectation that collectors of the future will come to value platinum American Eagles for what they are: beautiful examples of the coiner?s art depicting the Statue of Liberty that is also paired with other beautiful designs on the proofs. These buyers are the true numismatic pioneers. They don?t let others tell them what to do. They don?t chase popularity. They buy when others couldn?t care less. This is their time with platinum.
If other collectors over the next 10 or 20 years decide that this group of pioneers was right, then look out. Those low mintages from 2005 will help ignite quite a price spiral. The coins will cease to have any connection to the price of the metal and they will simply become very scarce coins valued highly for that very reason.
So tell me, are you buying?
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