By Louis Golino for CoinWeek ………
Unlike American silver eagles which are always issued in January, many world bullion coins are released during the final months of the preceding year.
For example, the Perth Mint rolls out its Lunar bullion coins and Kookaburras around Labor Day. The Koala coins are usually released a little later in the fall. However, this year some of Perth’s bullion products were delayed, including the silver Koalas and the ten ounce silver Lunar horses. Bullion dealers are now starting to accept pre-orders for these coins, which will be available in a couple weeks.
The Perth Mint's press officer, Makeila Ellis, provided the following explanation for the recent delays in the mint's bullion coin program: "This situation has arisen due to our factory being incredibly busy at this time with strong demand for both bullion and numismatic products. To satisfy existing demand as quickly as possible, we are again operating 24 hours a day, five days a week with double shifts on the weekend."
Ms. Ellis also said that the 5 ounce bullion silver Lunar horse coins will be released next year.
Perth’s Lunar bullion one-ounce coins have a mintage limited to 300,000, and typically acquire strong premiums after several years have passed, but it also depends on which Lunar sign is on the coin. 2012 Dragons, for example, have done better than 2013 snakes.
Kookaburras for 2014 have a mintage limit of a half million coins. Last year one million coins were issued. The mintage level for these coins was set at 300,000 from the start of the series in 1990 until 2011, when it was raised to a half million, but the 2011 coins sold out quickly. In general Kookaburras have acquired premiums over their silver content, but not to the extent of most of the Lunar series I and II coins, which have higher premiums with the exception of coins from the past two years, which may do better later.
Perth also issues a special Lunar privy mark Kookaburra, which I believe have mintages of 50,000 per issue. These coins can usually be purchased for a small premium over melt value from major bullion dealers and may offer good long-term potential. However, it remains unclear at this point how widely they are collected and whether most collectors of the Kookaburra series consider the privy coins an essential part of the series.
China’s popular Panda silver bullion coins are being released by distributors towards the end of November, but the coin’s design was unveiled on October 11 at the Beijing Coin Expo, and NGC graded 200 of the coins for the show, which was an invitation-only event. The 2014 coin features a seated panda holding a bamboo branch. Last year’s coin was the only one to depict three pandas, a baby panda and its parents. With the exception of one year, each year’s coin has had a different reverse design.
The current mintage of silver Pandas is eight million coins. The mintage levels for this issue have been steadily increased in recent years, as the market for Panda coins has continued to expand . If held for a period of at least several years, these coins should outperform bullion, but the value of Pandas issued since the mintage was raised over the last couple years is unlikely to match that of earlier issues that are more scarce.
Canada usually releases its annual Maple Leaf bullion coin before the end of the previous year. Some earlier Maple Leafs with low mintages have acquired solid premiums, but in more recent years, when millions of the coin were sold, they have traded at a small premium over melt. Regular Maple Leafs are issued to demand, and over twelve million of the 2013 coins have been sold so far.
However, the Royal Canadian Mint also issues bullion coins with limited mintages. On the heels of the successful wildlife series, whose first issue, the wolf, continues to be worth about three times its metal value, the RCM is releasing a special 25th anniversary Maple Leaf also with a one million mintage that will be available in late November. These coins use the traditional maple leaf reverse design with the number “25” on top of the maple leaf.
While I doubt they will be as popular as the earlier wildlife coins, which had compelling designs that were very popular with collectors, these coins still have some potential to acquire premiums over their silver content, especially if the mintage sells out quickly.
Another major world silver bullion coin to consider is the UK’s Britannia, whose 2014 issue will be available in early December.
From the start of the program in 1988 until 2012 these coins usually had very low mintages and most years they had different designs. The coins from these years today command remarkable premiums often of over $100 per coin, and the only coins with premiums that come close to them would be earlier issues of the Lunar series coins from Perth, Chinese Pandas, and Somali Elephants.
But beginning last year the Royal Mint decided to issue Britannias to demand while also increasing their silver purity to the same level as other major world bullion coins so that they would contain exactly one ounce of silver. In addition, the design will remain the same, although the proof versions will have different designs each year and limited mintages.
Despite these changes, silver Britannias are still likely to remain popular with collectors and with bullion investors, so they are certainly worth including in your collection or portfolio.
There are many other world silver bullion coins buyers and collectors may wish to consider, but the final two I will highlight are the New Zealand Taku and the Somalia Elephant coins, both of which are issued in multiple formats.
The Taku coins sport an attractive turtle design and have a mintage limit of 350,000. They are also issued in larger formats, and the five ounce coins have much lower mintages than the one ounce coin, and sell for a premium, but their exact mintage remains unclear.
The Somalia Elephant coins are issued by the Bavarian State Mint in Germany and are issued in various formats of bullion and numismatic coins. While it is unclear what current mintage levels are for the one-ounce silver bullion coin, most earlier issues from this series sell for very strong premiums. There are also one-ounce proof versions, a proof set, a popular high relief proof, which have a mintage of only 1,000 pieces, as well as colored versions, and a kilo coin.
The 2014 bullion elephants have been available since earlier this fall, and the proof and high relief coins have just been released. They are very attractive coins.
Louis Golino is a coin collector and numismatic writer, whose articles on coins have appeared in Coin World, Numismatic News, a number of different coin web sites in addition to being a contributor to “American Hard Assets magazine”. His column for CoinWeek, “The Coin Analyst,” covers U.S. and world coins and precious metals. He collects U.S. and European coins and is a member of the ANA, PCGS, NGC, and CAC. He has also worked for the U.S. Library of Congress and has been a syndicated columnist and news analyst on international affairs for a wide variety of newspapers and web sites.