by Louis Golino for CoinWeek
UK Royal Mint Announces Changes to Britannia Coins
On April 26 Nick Bowkett of the UK’s Royal Mint posted an article on the mint’s blog which stated that the UK has decided to change the silver and gold content of its Britannia bullion coins. The gold coins will be changed from 91.67% to 99.99%, while the silver will be changed from 95.6% to 99.99%.
That will bring it in line with other world mint silver coins, including the U.S. Mint’s silver eagle, which mostly issue pure silver bullion coins.
When it comes to gold coins, some countries like the U.S. and South Africa still add copper alloys to the gold, while others like Canada and Austria use pure gold.
Silver investors tend to prefer pure silver over less pure silver, whether coin, bar, or round, because it is easier to track how much actual silver one has accumulated.
In addition, the mint will be switching from packaging the coins in blister packs to using tubes like other countries, and will be looking to expand its reach by adding new customers. It will interesting to see if that action reduces the quality of the coins.
The Mint may also be increasing the mintage of its silver Britannia coins as part of the revamping of the bullion program, but that is not clear at this time. Those coins, which have been issued since 1988, have generally been limited to 100,000 per year, or even less some years. It is unclear what the mintage for the 2012 coin will be.
The Royal Mint also said it plans to offer a storage option for buyers of its bullion coins. An increasing number of mints, bullion companies, and bullion storage companies now offer customers the ability to store bullion in their facilities for a fee.
Gainesville Coins recently announced that it has become an official distributor of Royal Mint bullion and numismatic products.
Mexico Makes Changes to Silver Libertads for 2012
The popular silver Libertads of Mexico are normally issued in different sizes and in both bullion and proof versions.
But for reasons that were not announced the Mexican Mint has decided to limit production in 2012 to only 1, 2 and 5 ounce bullion coins, with no fractional issues. It also will not be issuing its standard silver coin proof set and will instead only issue a one ounce proof coin.
Libertads tend to be issued in small numbers, especially the proof versions. The sets have generally been limited to 1,000 pieces, and the 2 ounce and 5 ounce proof versions have also been issued in very small numbers and are hard to obtain.
Libertad collectors have speculated that last year’s proof set may be the last one, which would probably drive prices higher. Those sets currently sell for $190-220.
No official statement has been provided that indicates the 2011 set is the last proof set that will be issued.
The Mexican mint is the oldest one in North America.
Perth Mint Re-Mints Silver Kookaburras
Low mintages are a major attraction of coins from the Perth Mint in Western Australia, and those that have gone up a lot on the secondary market usually have low mintages plus high demand.
Owners of the one-ounce Kookaburra series coins will be disappointed to learn that the Perth Mint decided to re-mint the 1992 coins in response to wholesale catalog orders. These coins are also made in two and ten ounce sizes.
It is important to remember that the mint reserves the right to issue more of any coin that has not reached its designated maximum mintage, which in the case of the Kookaburra series is 300,000.
Only the 1990 and 2008-2012 one-ounce coins have sold the entire mintage of 300,000 coins, so they can not be re-minted, but other dates in the series could be re-minted in the future if demand warrants.
However, when it comes to Perth’s Lunar series coin, the mint has stated that only series II, which are currently being issued, not the Series I coins, are subject to re-minting even though many series I coins never sold out of their maximum authorized mintages. Those coins continue to be in strong demand.
In other news from Perth, at the beginning of the month a slew of new releases were issued. One of the more popular coins is the first high relief version of the widely collected Kookaburra coin. An official from the mint told me that this is the first of an ongoing series of high relief Kooks. Perth already has high relief Kangaroo and high relief Dragon.
An interesting twist regarding this release is that U.S. buyers were not allowed to order the high relief Kook directly from Perth. Instead they were referred to the Paradise Mint , an American coin retailer.
At first many American collectors expressed unhappiness at this development out of concern that Paradise would charge more than Perth and only sell slabbed coins, whereas many collectors prefer to get them in their original government packaging.
But Paradise offered the coin for $105 with free shipping, which is less than one would have paid if ordering from Perth, and the coins were sold ungraded. I just received mine and am extremely pleased with the coin. Kudos to Perth for another innovative coin and to Paradise for how it handled the U.S. distribution.
Royal Canadian Mint News
The all-silver 2012 Canadian proof sets are almost sold out at the Mint with 88% of the sets sold as of May 9.
In addition, the rose-breasted grossbeak oversized colorized quarter is also close to a sell out with 81% of the sets sold.
This year the RCM has issued more coins that sold out quickly and rose on the secondary market than any other world mint.
The mint also reported on May 7 that last year its revenue was $3.2 billion and that it made $43.8 million in pre-tax profits.
Louis Golino is a coin collector and numismatic writer, whose articles on coins have appeared in Coin World, Numismatic News, and a number of different coin web sites. 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.