By Al Doyle for CoinWeek....
The appeal of gold is universal, and it has nothing to do with the state of one's finances. A desire to own the metal coupled with a small budget can be especially frustrating, but there are ways to play the gold game without large sums of cash.
Even though it hasn't been used as daily spending money for close to 100 years, a wide selection of smaller gold pieces have been struck in recent years. How does a person build a collection? Consider these options.
One-ounce rounds are for the investor market, and the second most popular size in modern gold coinage is the 1/10-ounce version. Although premiums above melt value are higher on smaller coins, they provide the average working person with a way to accumulate gold one or two pieces at a time.
The American Eagle will be the choice of many small gold shoppers, and it offers several collecting options. First struck in 1986, the series has been issued on a continuous basis, making it ideal for a date set. Annual proofs are a second path for the diehard Eagle enthusiast. Roman numerals marked the date until 1991. There are no high-priced keys, but the 1991 will cost a little more than later issues. While many dealers stock silver Eagles by date, few professional numismatists do the same with the complete run of 1/10-ounce gold Eagles.
Canadian Maple Leafs have a worldwide following, and this series of 24-karat gold pieces stretches back to 1982. How does a person fill dates in a series that tends to be sold randomly by bullion dealers? You might have to attend a large show and sort through batches of "Maples". Only three 1/10-business strike Eagles (1988, 1991 and 2007) sport mintages of less than 200,000, but it's a totally different story north of the border.
Collectors who like rarity and a challenge will find it in the 1/10 ounce Leafs. Annual production ranged from 21,300 to 63,470 from 2000to 2008, with the low points coming in 2007 and 2003 (26,940). It's clear that the Royal Canadian Mint was more focused on one-ounce units for the investment market. Mintage numbers were under 100,000 in 2010 and 2012.
The original mass-market gold coin - the Krugerrand - is sometimes overlooked or taken for granted in a 21st century bullion market full of newer choices. The smallest K-rand debuted in 1980, and the 21st century includes a run of low-mintage dates
Chinese Pandas and Austrian Philharmonics are other well-respected options with a track record of regular issues. Because of their popularity in the jewelry trade as well as with the general public, 1/10 Pandas tend to command higher prices than the competition. The 2006 Philharmonic features a mintage of 39,892. The musical instruments on the reverse are one of many examples of the tasteful and talented artistry that is a trademark of the Austrian Mint.
The choices don't end with the big five. Check out the various 1/10-ounce gold coins produced by Mexico, Australia and the Isle of Man. Recent 1/10-ounce (0.1005 ounce, to be exact) Britannias are made exclusively for the collector market, as annual mintage numbers in the low four figures will attest.
A person doesn't have to be confined to one series of modern gold. Go ahead and play the type set game by obtaining as many different designs as possible. There's another way to derive satisfaction from small gold even if your holdings lack some of the scarcer dates. As one friend vividly described it, having a handful of 1/10-ounce gold coins "makes you feel like a low-budget King Midas." At today's spot prices, working up to becoming a minor league Midas is also much less expensive than it would have been a year or two ago.