outside the lines

  • The United States has offered gold and silver bullion coins since 1986. The highly successful American Eagle programs allowed the public to have a government sanctioned vehicle for the investment in precious metals. Gold coins were sold in one ounce and several fractional ounce sizes. Silver coins were sold in one ounce sizes. A decade after the program began it was expanded to include platinum, which is more of an industrial metal than classic precious metal.

    The American Platinum Eagle made its debut in 1997. Similar to the gold bullion coins, it was offered in one ounce and several fractional ounce sizes. This accomodated different levels of investment. In the inaugural year for the fledgling series, the US Mint marked 73,350 ounces of platinum sales. At the time the price of platinum was under $400 per ounce.

    As the years went on, platinum entered a series of year over year gains, which brought the metal to heights few would have expected. Sales of platinum bullion peaked early in the series in the year 1998 at 175,650 ounces. These high sales were experienced basically at the beginning of platinum’s run which would bring the metal over $2,000.

    In the ensuing years, the price of the metal kept rising, as the number of Platinum Eagles kept falling. When platinum was hitting its peak in the year 2007, sales had fallen to a mere 9,050 ounces for the entire year. During 2008, platinum reached a brand new high and then collapsed. The falling price brought some speculation back up to the plate and saw sales of 33,700 ounces.

    How will platinum prices and sales do in the coming years? The unusual volatility impacted the supply of bullion blanks needed to strike the coins. This necessitated the delay of production for the coins, which are still on hiatus half way through 2009.

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