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Buy palladium if you know what it is

Do you know what palladium is? I suppose I shouldn’t admit this, but I probably wouldn’t recognize it if you dropped some on my foot.

From a coin collector’s experience, it is a fairly exotic metal. There are not many coins made of it.

I remember reading about the palladium issues of Tonga not long after the 1967 pieces were issued. I was a kid then with a brand new subscription to Coins Magazine and I soaked up new information like a sponge. You would never know it from my fumbling through the Standard Catalog of World Coins to find those pieces now.

China has been striking low-mintage palladium Pandas since 1989. Canada started striking Maple Leaf palladium coins in 2005. I have not seen anything but photographs of these. There are even bars and rounds that you can buy. Even so, these are not the topics of everyday conversation among collectors, nor even among precious metals investors as far as I can see.

Standard Catalog of World Gold Coins

1,439 pages of more than 400 years of gold coins, from every region of the world.

I know palladium is a platinum group metal and it is used in some catalytic converters for automobiles. Numismatic News even publishes the metal’s price every week on Page 4.

But bottom line, that is about the limit of my knowledge. I will have to start augmenting it.

The U.S. Mint is in the process of studying the market viability of a one-ounce palladium U.S. bullion coin. This study was mandated by Congress late last year along with the authorization for such a coin using the Adolph Weinman Mercury dime design.

The study is to be communicated to Congress in early 2012. Then we will see what will follow.
Who will be buying?

The United States started striking platinum bullion coins in 1997. It was a fair bet on a metal that was less familiar to collectors than gold, but certainly far more familiar to them than palladium.

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Since 2009 the platinum issues have become nothing more than a low-mintage proof-only collector series.

The collector market is obviously being appealed to to give the new palladium issue an initial boost. Otherwise, why would you resurrect the Mercury dime design?

But with palladium priced at $655 an ounce, it will not be a cheap stroll down memory lane for collectors who are attracted by the familiar design.

Will that be enough to build a new program on? The answer probably won’t matter much as Congress says it must be done and so it will be.

It is too bad Congress already has mandated the one-ounce piece. A study might have revealed a better approach to that market. It might have been better to use the old dime design to launch a new dime-sized palladium coin series. That might have made buying this metal a little more digestible for average buyers.

As it stands, a palladium series might see a first-year-of-issue boom followed by 10,000-mintage years thereafter.

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