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Modern world silver bullion coins are increasingly popular with both silver investors and modern coin collectors, and with buyers who fall into both camps. This overview will cover all of the most popularly purchased silver bullion coin products.
Modern world silver bullion coins are increasingly popular with both silver investors and modern coin collectors, and with buyers who fall into both camps. Some people buy ungraded coins, while others purchase graded examples. Other coins bearing these designs are minted in special versions aimed at coin collectors such as proof and high relief coins.
The world bullion field has continued to expand in recent years as many more countries have begun to issue their own coins or have contracted another mint to produce them on their behalf. But there are ten major bullion coins issued every year that stand out from the others in terms of their broad appeal to buyers, worldwide sales levels, and established track record with collectors and investors. Each coin has certain distinctive features that distinguish it from other coins on the list.
Five of these coins have designs that do not change each year, larger mintages, and typically smaller premiums over silver value than other bullion coins. These features make them a good choice for silver stackers who want the most metal at the lowest cost. Some people build complete date sets of these coins, but they tend to have less appeal for those with a strong interest in numismatics than the coins in the second group. They are often bought in quantity.
American Silver Eagle – 2015 coins will be released in early January possibly under an allocation or rationed basis due to shortages in late 2014 of 2014-dated coins. This resulted in a temporary halting of production for 2015 coins and the imposition of an allocation system for 2014 coins, which in November approached the previous record for yearly sales reached in 2013 of 42,675,000. This is the most widely sold bullion coin in the world, and it is always in high demand and is universally recognized. Its Walking Liberty obverse design is very popular with buyers. It is also minted in a variety of special versions for collectors such as proof and burnished uncirculated coins. It has been minted since 1986.
Canadian Maple Leaf – The second highest-selling bullion coin in the world, they have been issued since 1998. In 2014 two special security features were added (radial lines and a micro Maple Leaf) designed to make buyers feel safer when buying these coins. There are various collector versions such as privy mark coins, reverse proofs, etc. 2015 coins will available soon. Although they are collected by date, the bullion version of this coin is primarily intended to be a silver bullion vehicle.
Austrian Philharmonic – Typically the third best seller in silver bullion coins these coins have been issued since 2008. Their mintage levels vary each year and are based on demand levels. The coins feature an attractive design of the Austrian Philharmonic in Vienna that is popular with silver buyers. These coins are mainly purchased as a silver investment and tend to have the lowest premiums (along with Canadian Maple Leafs) over spot value of the major world bullion coins. 2015 coins are releasing soon.
UK Britannia – From 1998 through 2012 these had limited mintages and changing designs and were not made of one troy ounce; since 2013 the reverse design has and will remain the same (except on proofs), and the coin is minted to demand and contains one troy ounce of .999 silver. For 2015 the background of the reverse design was changed from a brilliant to a more matte finish. The 2015 coins are releasing soon. The issues from 1998-2012 have been strong performers because of their different designs and limited mintages even under 100,000 in several cases. The issues released since 2013 have not seen a great deal of price appreciation over silver. There is also a special version issued since 2013 that has lunar privy marks along the entire rim of the coin. The 2013 snake privy had a mintage of 350,000 and sells for more than the regular Britannia coins from the same year.
Mexican Libertad - Minted since 1982 Libertads have been issued longer than any other major world bullion coin. Their mintages vary by year and are not announced until well after the coins are released into the market. Many past issues have very low mintages under 100,000, and the highest is 2.5 million for the 1992 issue, past issues are harder to find than other bullion coins (apart from Pandas) and have a strong history of price performance. The bare-breasted Winged Liberty angel design is very popular with buyers and is often described as the most beautiful design on a world bullion coin. Since 1992 these coins have been issued in sizes other than just the one ounce issue. The 2015 issue will not be released until sometime next year. Unlike other world bullion coins Libertad release dates vary widely, and these are the last bullion coins issued each year. The mintage of the 2015 coin will not be known until towards the end of next year. The mintage of the 2014 coin was just released on December 2 and it stands at 429,200, which is the lowest since 2007.
A second group of six coins has a new design each year, lower mintages, and usually slightly higher premiums that make these issues appeal in particular to numismatic collectors. Because of their lower mintages than the coins in the first group these coins have strong potential for long-term price appreciation apart from silver value as past issues become harder to find:
Perth Mint coins - 2015 Year of the Goat, Kookaburra, and Koala coins are all available. Each is issued with official capsules, and the Perth Mint is well known for its high quality standards, which results in perhaps the best-quality world silver bullion coins.
The Lunar goats are part of the Lunar series II and have a limited mintage of 300,000. As a result of their low mintage and large base of collectors, past issues in the Lunar I and II series have tended to acquire the largest aftermarket premiums over time.
Kookaburras - The Kookaburras have a mintage of 500,000, and this year’s coin marked the 25th anniversary of the series. The design of the 2015 coin is a slightly modified version of the 1991 design. This is a very popular series among collectors.
Koalas - Koalas are minted to demand and are also popular with collectors and silver buyers. Each coin is also issued in a variety of other sizes, and in special collector versions with limited mintages. Although it is the newest series, Koalas continue to be more popular every year.
Somalia Elephant – Issued since 2004 with a different design each year, these coins have low mintages for a world bullion coin, and have past coins have appreciated a lot in price, especially the earliest issues. Mintages in the first few years were 5,000 but have been as high as 170,000 more recently. 2015 mintage is not yet known, and the coin is available now.
Chinese Panda – The silver Panda mintage used to be much lower but is now 8 million. These coins have strong worldwide demand especially in Asia where a growing middle class buys silver for wealth and inflation protection. Past issues were widely collected, hard to find, and have seen very strong price performance, especially for the ones with lower mintages. Chinese Pandas are a very popular series with collectors.
For 2015 the weight and purity were removed from the design. It is not clear why that was done, but many people speculate it could have something to do with China’s interest in backing the Yuan with gold and silver and replacing the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. 2015 issue available soon.
Canada Birds of Prey series – The third and fourth coins of the series will be released this year, but the RCM has not announced what they will be. The first one should be out in early 2015. Each coin has a limited mintage of one million, and the animal designs are popular with buyers. Premiums for this series have so far not gone up as much as they did for the precious wildlife series, but they may in the future. They are also released as proof coins.
UK Lunar series – This series started in 2013 with the Year of the Horse coins. The 2015 goat coins are available now. Sells for about the same premium over melt as Britannia coins and like them is also minted to demand. As a coin only in its second year of production these are still in the process of catching on with collectors and silver buyers. These coins typically sell for a slightly higher premium than regular Britannia coins.
Silver investors have a wide range of options for physical purchases of the metal from bars and rounds of many sizes made by a large number of producers to legal tender coins. The advantages of the legal tender coins discussed above is their universal acceptance for their silver content, their attractive designs, and their status as legal tender, even though their actual denominations are only a fraction of their actual silver content value.
Buyers looking for the most legal tender silver for their money will find their best options in the first category, while those looking for collectible series that become scarce over time will find the second group more appealing. History has shown that if buyers are patient the collectible silver series often enjoys greater price appreciation, and their larger premiums are also a hedge against declining silver spot prices. In the coming months we will discuss gold legal tender coins and other physical gold options as well as other forms of physical silver and second-tier precious metals, including platinum, palladium, and rhodium.
||Louis is an award-winning numismatic journalist and writer specializing on modern coins. He has been writing a weekly column for CoinWeek since May 2011 called “The Coin Analyst,” which focuses primarily on modern U.S. and world coins and developments at major world mints. In August 2015 he received the Numismatic Literary Guild’s award for Best Website Column for “The Coin Analyst.” He is also a contributor to several magazines, including Coin World, where he writes a bimonthly feature;The Numismatist, the American Numismatic Association’s monthly publication, where he writes a monthly column on modern world coins; and American Hard Assets. He began writing about coins in 2009. He is a founding member of the Modern Coin Forum hosted by ModernCoinMart and has written articles for MCM since 2014. He has collected classic and modern U.S. and world coins since he was about 10 and first joined the ANA in the 1970’s. He was previously a congressional relations specialist and policy analyst at the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress and a syndicated columnist and news analyst on international politics and national security for a wide variety of publications. He has been writing professionally since the early 1980s.|