Investors and collectors searching for precious metal coins to purchase for investment portfolios or private collections often turn to the popular gold and silver products that dominate the market. Over the last couple of years, the palladium market has quietly rebounded, leading more refineries and mints back into the market, and attracting the attention of investors and collectors looking for diverse precious metal options.
What is Palladium?
Palladium is a group 10 elemental metal that is, in fact, one of the most malleable and in-demand precious metal products in the marketplace today. Together with rhodium, ruthenium, iridium, osmium, and platinum, palladium makes up the platinum group of metals. In fact, palladium is similar enough to platinum that many investors and collectors often mistake the two at first glance. Both palladium and platinum are soft, silver-white metals that are commonly used in both the precious metals industry and numerous other industries within the global economy.
Palladium was first discovered in 1803 by William Hyde Wollaston, who named the metal after the then-recently-discovered asteroid Pallas. Early critics accused Wollaston of trying to pass off a platinum alloy as palladium when he first offered it for sale in a small shop in London’s Soho district in 1803, but he was later justified in his discovery of palladium as a separate metal from platinum through laboratory experimentation and testing.
Currently, Russia is the world’s leading exporter of palladium with 44% of the world’s known stockpile found within its borders. Other major producers include South Africa (40%), Canada (6%), and the United States (5%). Palladium is a prized precious metal in coining because of its physical and elemental properties. It is the least dense of the metals in its group, and also has the lowest melting point.
When palladium is heat treated, it becomes soft and ductile, yet is strengthened and becomes extremely hard when cold-worked. As a metal for use in coins, palladium is particularly excellent because it does not react with oxygen at normal temperatures, meaning it does not tarnish due to exposure to the air.
History of Palladium Coins
Although it is no longer involved in the production of palladium coins, the African nation of Sierra Leone was the world’s first to introduce a palladium coin in 1966. This was followed one year later in 1967 by the release of palladium coins from Tonga. Other historic producers of palladium coins include the former Soviet Union, Canada, France, Portugal, China, and Australia. Most of these nations produced palladium coins as commemorative issues and not as circulation currency.
Despite early success marketing and selling palladium coins, most of the world’s mints and refineries backed out of the palladium market in 2000. At this time, the price of palladium spiked to $1,100. The result of the price spike was a mass exodus by investors, many of whom sold off palladium coins and other palladium products that were eventually melted down to meet the other industrial demands for palladium.
With the automotive industry, among others, driving the prices of palladium higher, fewer mints produced palladium products and investors divested from palladium with handsome returns. In recent years, palladium has become increasingly important in the production of catalytic converters, which cleanse the exhaust of combustion engines of hydrocarbons and other harmful toxins before release into the atmosphere. Palladium is also used to make consumer electronic components and dental equipment.
Canadian Palladium Maple Leaf Coins
The Royal Canadian Mint was an early leader in the production of annual-issue palladium bullion coins. The last precious metal version of the Canadian Maple Leaf coins, the Canadian Palladium Maple Leaf coin was first issued in 2005. It was regularly available from 2005 to 2007, again in 2009, and resumed regular production in 2015.
Each coin features 1 Troy oz of .9995 pure palladium in BU condition with a face value of $50 (CAD). The coins have the same designs on the reverse and obverse of all the other versions in the series. The reverse side includes the sugar maple leaf design created in 1979 by Walter Ott for the debut of the Gold Maple Leaf coins. The obverse features the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II. This is the fourth-generation design on Canadian coins and was created in 2003 by Susanna Blunt. This is the only effigy to feature on the Canadian Palladium Maple Leaf coins.
American Palladium Eagle Coins
Though it took time to materialize, the American Palladium Eagle joined the greater American Eagle Series in 2017. Congress authorized the production of a palladium bullion coin with the passage of the American Eagle Palladium Bullion Coin Act of 2010. The US Mint struggled with the demand for silver and gold at the time and was not able to get the palladium coins into production until 2017.
In 2017, the American Palladium Eagle coin debuted as a bullion option only. The 1 Troy oz coins feature .9995 pure palladium content in BU condition and feature a face value of $25 (USD). The debut issue had a limited mintage of only 15,000 coins and sold out completely within the first day. In 2018, the US Mint skipped the production of a bullion coin and instead opted for a Proof American Palladium Eagle instead. The coin had the same mintage of 15,000 coins, sold out its allotment in five minutes, and was available with a US Mint presentation box and Certificate of Authenticity.
On the obverse of American Palladium Eagles is Adolph A. Weinman’s Winged Liberty design from the US dime in circulation from 1916 to 1944. This side of the coin features Liberty in left-profile relief wearing the winged Phrygian cap. When featured on the US dime, the design was known as the Mercury Dime because of Liberty’s resemblance to the Roman messenger god Mercury.
The reverse face of the coins featured a unique design created in 1907 by Weinman. This artwork first appeared on the American Institute of Architects medal design. It features an American bald eagle on a rock’s edge with a laurel branch in its talon and beak.
Russian Palladium Coins
The only other major palladium bullion coin available in the past several decades is the Russian Palladium Ballerina. The Russian Palladium Ballerina coin debuted from the Moscow Mint in 1989 and was produced through 2005. This time period saw the transition from the Soviet Union to the Russian Federation as the Cold War came to an end. The obverse of these coins includes the image of ballerinas in various poses, while the reverse features the hammer and sickle symbols of the former Soviet Union. Although the Soviet Union collapsed during this coin’s production, the Moscow Mint continued with the use of the Soviet emblems on the reverse of the coin.
Buying Palladium Coins from Silver.com
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