Bullion coins were invented to be a convenient way to trade a known quantity of precious metal without the bother of assaying them every time they changed hands.
That’s the theory.
Obviously, there are other reasons to buy bullion coins.
An inquiry I have just received from a reader illustrates this.
In my morning email came this message:
“I was wondering if you might shed some light on something I read in the ANA July issue.
“It was talking about finding a bullion coin that was prooflike. I always thought of bullion coins as having no real value except that of the value of the metal. I guess my real question is about bullion coins and should I be looking at them like I would all other coins?
“Thank you for your help on this because up to now I haven’t been buying any bullion coins. Should I be?”
These questions go to the heart of numismatics. Just because a coin is labeled a bullion coin does not mean it cannot be collected.
If bullion coins can be collected, then collectors will do what they always do and try to obtain them in the best condition possible.
A prooflike bullion coin, unless the mint of issue is imparting such a finish on all coins in a standard fashion, would qualify as a more appealing collector coin than one without a prooflike finish.
Because the American Eagle series of gold and silver bullion coins now stretch over 31 years of issue, 1986-2016, many collectors are assembling sets as they would Morgan dollars or $20 gold pieces.
Some collectors have taken up the bullion coins with such enthusiasm they collect nothing else.
Whether to collect bullion coins is a matter of taste.
If they appeal to you as a collector, go after them.
The Mint has counted on collectors to support the program by augmenting it with proofs and with uncirculated collector versions with a “W” mintmark.
Technically that gives us fits with naming uncirculated ones correctly.
A specially made uncirculated bullion silver American Eagle coin has to be flagged in some fashion. The mintmark is the easiest way to do this.
Regular bullion silver American Eagles released to the investor market through the Mint’s Authorized Purchasers have no mintmark on them. By collector standards, they are all uncirculated too. But if you just call them uncirculated, they can be confused with the Mint’s formally named uncirculated coin with the mintmark.
Once in collector hands, the quality of the uncirculated strike is evaluated and Mint State grades can be assigned.
The top grade of 70 is sought after.
There is no doubt these are the finest of the fine.
The only doubt is because of ever improving Mint production standards, will there be more 70s to collect than collectors to buy them?
Supply and demand rules in the top grade as well as lower grades.
So by all means collect bullion coins.
Even as I have used American Eagles as an example, there is a wide world of bullion coins. Perhaps acquiring one of each would spice up your numismatic experience.
Because these coins are bullion coins, you will always have the precious metal no matter what might happen to collector demand for them decades from now.
Buzz blogger Dave Harper has twice won the Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."
- If you enjoy reading about what inspires coin designs, you’ll want to check out Fascinating Facts, Mysteries & Myths about U.S. Coins.