Last week, the U.S. Mint made several announcements during the American Numismatic Association’s World’s Fair of Money in Denver, Colo.
In September, it will begin selling bullion-priced 2017 one-ounce palladium Eagles to Authorized Purchasers. Collectors and investors will be able to acquire them shortly thereafter. The Mint plans to issue a proof version of the coin in 2018.
I would not be surprised to see the initial release of the palladium Eagle sell well, especially since some will sell on a novelty basis – a U.S. coin made of a new metal. From trading on the wholesale market of existing coins, such as the Canadian palladium Maple Leaf in current production and the formerly struck Australian palladium Emu (1995-1998) and Russian palladium Ballerinas (1989-1995), it is evident that this will cut into demand for the Eagle’s competitors.
As an almost-to-be-expected result, premiums have fallen on previously issued bullion-priced palladium coins. In the case of the Canadian palladium Maple Leaf, with the largest mintages, the price has fallen about $15 per ounce relative to metal value over the past month or so. Although the retail premiums for the palladium Eagles are not yet set, I would expect its premium to be higher than for ingots and coin issues from other countries.
To the best of my knowledge, there have never been circulating palladium coins anywhere. It is really only practical to consider it as an industrial metal. For a long time, the spot price of palladium was roughly half that of platinum, a metal with which it shares similar chemical properties. This ratio occurred partly because, in industrial applications, it was often possible to use either platinum or twice the amount of palladium to serve the same purpose.
Today, the price of palladium is about three-quarters that of platinum. While relative supply and demand fundamentals can shift over time, at the current price of palladium I consider it less attractive for value than for platinum.
2018 America the Beautiful quarter designs released
The U.S. Mint also revealed the final designs for the forthcoming 2018 America the Beautiful quarters honoring Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Wisconsin, Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota, Cumberland Island National Seashore in Georgia and Block Island National Wildlife Refuge in Rhode Island.
Being from Michigan, I have a particular interest in the design of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore issue. The Mint’s design process for this series of coins did not include any public input, which I consider to be a mistake, as such involvement would encourage more collectors.
Of the 13 candidate designs, the one picked for Michigan was that endorsed by the Commission of Fine Arts, which was somewhat similar to the one endorsed by the Citizen’s Coinage Advisory Committee. That did not surprise me. It shows a particularly significant rock formation that people who have visited the Lakeshore would recognize.
However, was this the best possible design for this coin? In an effort to stimulate the use of coins for educational purposes, my company late last year prepared a survey form depicting all 13 proposed designs for the Michigan quarter. We asked the general public which of these designs were their first, second and third choice. Also, 20 schools ended up having students and staff take the survey.
So, how did the U.S. Mint’s final design fare in this non-scientific, unofficial survey? From the school surveys, it came in tied for 11th most popular for first choice, with only 3.2 percent of the surveys. All of the choices for either first, second, or third preference came to 16.7 percent of surveys, which came in at 9th most popular.
When adding the public surveys, the winning design still came in 11th most popular for first choice and again 9th most often designated as first, second, or third choice.
By the way, at every school in the survey, the same design – the only one to include a white-tail deer – was the most popular first choice, picked on 33.4 percent of all school surveys and also the runaway leader where 57.3 percent of all school surveys included it as first, second, or third choice.
To be fair, the design criteria used by the U.S. Mint staff, the CFA, and the CCAC were different from those at schools or used by the general public. The public focuses on what is beautiful and what makes them think “Michigan.” The decision makers consider factors such as coinability of the design and what might make the public think “Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.”
When the Michigan quarter debuts about the beginning of February next year, Liberty Coin Service will again do a food-raiser for the local food bank. Those bringing non-perishable food or cash donations to the food bank will be given quarters. In Michigan, third grade students are required to study about Michigan. In about a month, we will begin contacting area schools, especially those with third grade classes, offering to do educational presentations on money, using the 2018 Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore quarters as the focal point. Collectors and coin dealers from states still waiting for their America the Beautiful Quarters to be issued are welcome to adapt any of these ideas.
Patrick A. Heller was the American Numismatic Association 2017 Exemplary Service and 2012 Harry Forman Numismatic Dealer of the Year Award winner. He was also honored by the Numismatic Literary Guild in 2017 and 2016 for the Best Dealer-Published Magazine/Newspaper and for Best Radio Report. He is the communications officer of Liberty Coin Service in Lansing, Mich., and writes “Liberty’s Outlook,” a monthly newsletter on rare coins and precious metals subjects. Past newsletter issues can be viewed at http://www.libertycoinservice.com. Some of his radio commentaries titled “Things You ‘Know’ That Just Aren’t So, And Important News You Need To Know” can be heard at 8:45 a.m. Wednesday and Friday mornings on 1320-AM WILS in Lansing (which streams live and becomes part of the audio and text archives posted at http://www.1320wils.com).
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More Collecting Resources
• Check out the newly-updated Standard Catalog of World Coins, 2001-Date that provides accurate identification, listing and pricing information for the latest coin releases.
• Keep up to date on prices for Canada, United States and Mexico coinage with the 2018 North American Coins & Prices guide.