Last September the U.S. Mint expanded its American Eagle program for the first time since 1997 when it released the 2017 American Eagle Palladium bullion coin. That coin – the first U.S. coin struck from palladium and the first non-gold high relief coin from the Mint – was sold by the Mint’s network of authorized purchasers to retail dealers like MCM who sold them to their customers. Demand was very high, and all 15,000 of the bullion pieces were sold quickly.
At the time, Andrew Salzberg, ModernCoinMart’s (MCM) VP of Product Development, told CoinWeek: “We feel that premiums started out at appropriate levels and slowly rose as the marketplace began to view this release as a collectible product.” “What began as a release that was intended to be the first opportunity for bullion customers to easily purchase palladium from the U.S. Mint has quickly become a new opportunity for traditional collectors to add something new to their collections. It really didn’t take long for the market to recognize the beauty and collectible aspects found within the palladium coins.” He also noted that the new coin injected energy into the U.S. coin market and said that the coin sold very well at MCM, especially graded pieces that were in MS70 condition.
This magnificent coin, which provided collectors the opportunity to diversify their precious metals allocations with a highly collectible palladium coin, is about to be issued in proof and will be struck at the West Point Mint. It will be the first proof palladium U.S. coin ever issued, joining a small group of palladium coins issued by other mints with even fewer of them in proof. And it is likely that there will not be a bullion version this year, making the proof the only palladium issue for 2018.
The legislation that created the Palladium Eagle program called for the issuance of uncirculated coins and proof coins, if the Secretary of the Treasurer deemed the latter appropriate. It also said the uncirculated coins were to be issued at any branch mint except that in West Point, while the proofs were to be struck at West Point. In addition, it said: “the Secretary shall, to the greatest extent possible, ensure that the surface treatment of each year's proof or uncirculated version differs in some material way from that of the preceding year.”
This most likely means that if the program continues in 2019 and beyond, we will see the coin with other finishes such as enhanced uncirculated, reverse proof, and others. And that may also make the 2018-W coin the only proof coin of this metal and type, adding to its desirability.
The 2018-W proof coins have a limited mintage of 15,000 coins, the same as the mintage of the 2017 bullion coin, and the Mint is imposing a household limit of one coin per household.
The coins have a diameter of 1.340 inches, or 34.036 millimeters, and a reeded edge.
The authorizing legislation stipulated that the design of Palladium Eagles must feature an obverse design in high relief based on celebrated American artist and medallic sculptor Adolph Weinman’s Winged Liberty Head design. This design is believed to have been based on a bust the artist created in 1913 of a woman named Elsie Stevens, who was the wife of an attorney and insurance agent named Wallace Stevens who later became a poet.
This Winged Liberty design, one of the most well-known and popular classic U.S. coin designs, features a left-facing profile of Liberty wearing a Phrygian cap with wings that was often confused with the Roman god, “Mercury.” That is why the silver dimes with this design issued from 1916 until 1945, which many call Mercury dimes, are actually Winged Head or Winged Liberty dimes.
Weinman wrote that the winged cap was intended to symbolize “freedom of thought.” It is also worth recalling that this coin was launched a year before the U.S. entered World War I and was part of an effort to rouse American patriotism in support of entering the war that had begun in 1914 in Europe. The design was used again in 2016 on the gold centennial version of this coin. Obverse Inscriptions are included for: “LIBERTY,” “IN GOD WE TRUST,” the “W” mintmark for West Point, the designer’s initials, showing a “W” superimposed on an “A,” and the year.
The reverse design, also in high relief, was required to be based on the design of Weinman’s 1907 American Institute of Architects gold medal, which shows an American eagle perched on a rock while clutching tree branches in its beak.
Weinman created the medal in 1906, and his design has never appeared on a coin prior to the 2017 palladium bullion issue. In producing this coin, the Mint was able to use the original reverse plaster of the AIA gold medal, ensuring that the coin would faithfully reproduce Weinman’s 1907 medal. Reverse Inscriptions include: “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,” “1 OZ.,” “Pd .9995 FINE,” “$25,” and “E PLURIBUS UNUM.”
The obverse bearing the famous Winged Liberty design and reverse with an image of an eagle that is reminiscent of the reverse of Walking Liberty half dollar have been perfected with modern minting technologies instead of the hand-based Janvier method used for the original. In addition, the amazing high-relief striking of the coin, the dazzling mirrored proof surfaces, and frosted design elements will combine to create a stunning modern numismatic work of art that collectors will want for many years to come.