The Precious Metal Platinum
Platinum is a special metal with unique properties, and a sister metal to gold and silver. Unlike gold or silver, platinum’s history of being used as money is limited to a short period of Russian Rubles. Platinum was discovered much later than silver and gold, not until 1557, and not in abundance until 1750, when the Spaniards colonized the northern regions of South America.
Platinum bullion coins are struck from the most prestigious mints in the world. Platinum Eagles are produced by the U.S. Mint, Platinum Maple Leafs by Canada’s Royal Canadian Mint, and Platinum Koalas by Australia’s Perth Mint. However, the supply is very limited and coins are difficult to obtain.
In the late 1990s, when platinum traded at about the price of gold, investor interest in platinum developed, leading, in 1997, to the U.S. Mint introduction of Platinum Eagles in a new design. Platinum Eagles were well received, and in the first full year of production (1998), 133,000 of the 1 ounce Platinum Eagles were minted. As the price of platinum pushed higher, investor interest in Platinum Eagles waned. 2003 saw only 8,007 of the Platinum Eagles minted, compared to more than 400,000 of the 1 ounce Gold Eagles.
Platinum bullion is presently seeing low interest. Investors who buy platinum at high prices relative to gold pay smaller markups than would be the case at smaller premiums to gold. Unfortunately, platinum bullion coin investors who want current year dates on their platinum coins (where the supply is slim indeed) can expect to pay large premiums over back-dated platinum bullion coin prices.