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One Bullion We Don't Need
April 08, 2009

Montana's two senators want the United States to begin striking bullion coins out of palladium. They introduced legislation in early April calling for a .995 fine one-ounce coin.

No surprise there as Montana has the only working palladium mine in the United States.

The senators' action follows a long line of Western legislative history of supporting mining with metal purchases and turning the metal into coinage.

The Bland-Allison Act of 1878 started the ball rolling, mandating silver purchases and the production of what became the Morgan silver dollar series.

Most Americans probably don't know what palladium is. I have never seen it even though there have been a few coins made of palladium since Tonga issued the first one in 1967.

Its exotic nature hardly recommends a palladium bullion coin to the investment crowd. When the financial markets became fearful they rushed to embrace what they knew, gold and silver bullion coins. Even platinum, which I assume we are more used to now than we used to be, was abandoned in the bullion coin buying spree of the past year.

The palladium coin proposal is also odd in another way. It wants it to copy the Ultra High Relief Saint-Gaudens gold coin design currently being sold to collectors, right down to the 27mm diameter.

Now making a one-ounce palladium bullion coin just 27mm wide will make it look more like a rubber bathroom sink stopper than a coin.

The question of whether we actually need another bullion coin aside, couldn't the writers of the bill come up with a more plausible coin? They should have at least had the initiative to raid the Mint's old coin design cupboard and come up with a Standing Liberty bullion coin or a Mercury bullion coin, or perhaps an 1804 dollar restrike bullion coin.

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About the Author
David C. Harper has been a coin collector since 1963. He joined the Krause Publications editorial staff in 1978 and is currently editor of Numismatic News and World Coin News. He also edits two books annually, North American Coins & Prices and Coin Digest. He is the author of the Class of '63 column that runs each week in Numismatic News. His first bylined numismatic article appeared in the June 1971 issue of Coins Magazine and his various Krause Publications assignments included a stint as editor of the magazine 1980-1983. Harper received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1977. He had a double major of journalism and economics.

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