This significant release represents the U.S. Mint’s inaugural ventures into palladium coinage. Their first-ever palladium coin, the 2017 High Relief Palladium Eagle is a result of the first major change to the American Eagle bullion coin program since 1997. Additionally, because each beautiful Palladium Eagle is struck in high relief, collectors can own the first-ever non-gold coin to be struck in high relief from the U.S. Mint! Order your selections while availability from this limited mintage of just 15,000 coins lasts.
One year after celebrating the 30th anniversary of its flagship American Eagle silver and gold bullion coin programs, the U.S. Mint announced that they are expanding their bullion coin line to include a Palladium American Eagle for the very first time! This new program is the first major change to the Eagle program since the introduction of Platinum American Eagles in 1997.
The introduction of the first palladium coin from the U.S. Mint is a significant moment in American numismatics, which takes the American Eagle series into unchartered territory. The sucess of these coins may determine whether the program continues and expands to include collector versions at some point.
Like other U.S. Mint bullion coins, the American Palladium Eagle is sold through the Mint’s network of authorized purchasers, who then distribute the coins to retail customers. Their retail price is based on the spot price of palladium plus the premium charged by the Mint to its authorized purchasers and a retail premium from the companies that sell to consumers.
Over the past decade, there has been continuous discussion within the numismatic and precious metal communities about whether the U.S. Mint should produce palladium coins. In 1997, after years of ceding the market for platinum bullion pieces to other Mints, the U.S. Mint began striking American Platinum Eagles. These coins, which will celebrate their 20th anniversary this year with a special proof coin carrying the original 1997 designs, have proven fairly successful.
In 2010, U.S. Congress passed a law called the American Palladium Eagle Bullion Coin Act of 2011 (Public Law 11-303). This act mandated the minting of high relief palladium bullion coins which would not carry a Mint mark, and would have a fineness of .9995. The law left it to the U.S. Treasury Secretary’s discretion as to whether to also produce versions for collectors in proof and burnished uncirculated finishes, but it was expressly stated that the bullion coins could not be issued at the West Point Mint, which normally strikes collector coins.
The act also had a requirement: that a feasibility study of the market was made to forecast the success of such coins. That study, which was carried out by the CPM group and issued in 2013, found that the market for palladium bullion coins would see declining sales after their first year of issue, which was forecast to sell 100,000 coins.
The study also maintained that proof and uncirculated collector coins would likely sell better than bullion coins, especially during their first year because of the novelty of having coins in a new metal. With respect to bullion coins, the study stressed that the palladium bullion market is still relatively new compared to those for gold and silver and that palladium tended to be viewed more as an industrial metal than an investment vehicle. There was some pushback to this study from collectors, who noted that only coin dealers and precious metal analysts were consulted, not coin collectors.
The CPM study likely underestimated the demand for palladium coins produced by the U.S. Mint, whose purity and authenticity would, like other American Eagles, be backed by the U.S. government. Moreover, one of the main reasons the market for palladium coins was so underdeveloped compared to those for gold and silver bullion coins was the relative scarcity of any coins produced. The only major quantity had been in the form of Palladium Maple Leafs from the Royal Canadian Mint (RCM), which had a brief hiatus in their production from 2009-2014.
The Palladium Eagle Program was believed to be dead until legislation introduced by Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Mich., was passed and signed into law by President Obama in December 2015, paving the way for the palladium program in 2017.
From the time it was first proposed in the 2010 legislation, there has been a specific requirement that the design for the bullion coin to include two vintage U.S. designs created by Adolf A. Weinman. Both designs are extremely popular with collectors, although the reverse design has never appeared on a coin and is less well-known. The appeal of both designs is a key element supporting interest in such coins among bullion coin buyers and collectors.
The obverse is based on sculptor Adolph A. Weinman’s obverse design for the famous Winged Liberty Head “Mercury” Dime. Originally created back in 1916, this design was recently struck by the West Point Mint for the 2016-W 1/10 oz. Gold Mercury Dime Centennial commemoratives.
The inscription “L I B E R T Y” arcs over the design, while “IN·GOD WE·TRUST” lies under Liberty’s chin, Adolph A. Weinman’s initials reside behind her neck and “2017” rests at the very bottom.
The reverse employs another Weinman design, which was used on the reverse of the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) gold medal introduced in 1907. It depicts an eagle perched on a large tree branch and grasping olive branches in its claws and beak. This medal was commissioned in 1906 by the AIA, which had Weinman prepare the design.
“UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” arcs over the eagles design, “$25” lies between the olive branch and the edge of the coin and “1OZ. Pd .9995 FINE” with “E PLURIBUS UNUM” sweeping across the bottom.
On March 16 of this year, the Commission on Fine Arts (CFA) met to review the design and approved it, as did the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC) a few days later on March 21. Most CCAC members were pleased with the design, though member Heidi Wastweet, an experienced medallic sculpture, said she thought the Mint’s rendition of the designs was “overly enhanced” and “a little over sharpened” such as the eagle’s head, which she said looked more spiked such as the way a dragon’s head appears.
The first American Palladium Eagle bullion coin carries a $25 face value and was struck in the aforementioned high relief. The minting of a high releif coin is something the U.S. Mint has so far only done in 1907 with the original Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle, the 2009 Ultra High Relief Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle and the High Relief Gold American Liberty Coins in 2015 and 2017.