Precious metal investors often turn first to the popular metals in the industry when buying gold and silver coins, bars, and rounds. However, palladium is quietly becoming one of the go-to precious metals as prices trend upward in the 21st century and the variety of available products continues to grow. One of the fastest-growing sectors for palladium comes in the form of palladium bullion coins. In recent years, new palladium coins have been introduced and previously canceled programs are making a comeback as demand for the metal increases.
Palladium is defined as a “rare and lustrous silvery-white metal.” In appearance, it is similar to both silver and platinum. The latter is understandable as palladium is one of the metals in the platinum metals group. It was first discovered in 1803 and named for the asteroid Pallas, which is associated with the Greek goddess Athena who herself used Pallas as an epithet. Like platinum, most of the world’s palladium supply is directed toward the production of catalytic converters used in the automotive industry. Among its fellow precious metals in the platinum metals group, palladium has the lowest melting point and is the least dense.
Most of the world’s supply of palladium comes from one of four sources. The four largest-known deposits of palladium in the world are found in South Africa, the United States, Canada, and Russia. Nearly 90% of the world’s supply comes from these deposits, with the remainder of palladium coming from the recycling of catalytic converters.
Palladium remained largely unknown as a precious metal in the investment sector until the 21st century. The prices of palladium were, historically, flat when compared with other investment-grade metals. However, the rising demand for fuel-efficient and economically-friendly automobiles lead to increased use of catalytic converters in automobiles. These components within the internal combustion engine of cars convert some 90% of harmful gases created during operation to less-harmful substances to release into the air.
The vast majority of palladium goes into the production of catalytic converters today. The remainder of it is used in industrial applications, jewelry, and now the precious metals investment market. The first palladium coins were issued in 1966 by Sierra Leone and 1967 by Tonga. Other nations to issue early palladium coins included France, the Soviet Union, Canada, Portugal, China, and Australia. However, these were all commemorative coins issued with low mintages or on a one-time basis. Production of palladium bullion coins wouldn’t take place until the 21st century.
The Canadian Palladium Maple Leaf coin is widely recognized as the first major palladium bullion coin. It was introduced in 2005 by the Royal Canadian Mint, but was only struck initially through 2007 and once again in 2009. The coins were not issued in 2008 and halted from 2010-2014. The Royal Canadian Mint reintroduced the Canadian Palladium Maple Leaf coins in 2015 with the same standards and options originally offered.
Canadian Palladium Maple Leaf coins are available only in 1 Troy oz palladium with .9995 pure content. The coins have a face value of $50 (CAD) and feature the same designs as all other coins in the Canadian Maple Leaf Series. On the obverse of the coins is the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II, which for Palladium Maple Leaf coins has always been the right-profile portrait created in 2003 by Susanna Blunt as the fourth-generation Canadian design.
The reverse side of Palladium Maple Leaf coins includes Walter Ott’s sugar maple leaf design that debuted in 1979 on the Gold Maple Leaf coin. The modern Canadian Palladium Maple Leaf coins issued after 2015 feature the radial lines in the background on both sides of the coin to help combat counterfeiting. The reverse also includes the micro-laser privy mark with the last two digits of the date mark visible under magnification.
The introduction of the American Palladium Eagle coin can best be described as a slow-burning process. The coins were authorized for production by an Act of Congress authorized and signed into law in December 2010. However, it would be another seven years before the United States Mint actually had the first coins ready to offer for sale in this series. In large part, the delay in introducing the Palladium Eagle was the result of waning demand (the same which ended the Canadian Palladium Maple Leaf in the early 2010s) for the metal and increased demand for gold and silver at the time. The United States Mint was struggling as it was to produce enough of the Gold and Silver Eagles, so the introduction of another coin at that time was deemed unfeasible.
Nonetheless, as palladium began to trend upward the United States Mint rolled out the first version of the coin in 2017. American Palladium Eagles have 1 Troy oz of .9995 pure palladium and are offered with a face value of $25 (USD). In keeping with the trend of other American Eagle coins, the Palladium Eagle has visions of Liberty and the American bald eagle on its design faces that are unique only to this series. Another tradition the US Mint adhered to was the adoption of a historic US coin design for the American Palladium Eagle.
On the obverse side of American Palladium Eagle coins is the design of Lady Liberty known as Winged Liberty, or more popularly, as the Mercury design. This left-profile portrait of Liberty was created in 1916 by Adolph A. Weinman and featured on the circulation dime from 1916 to 1945. This vision of Liberty depicts her wearing a winged Phrygian cap on her head. The word “Liberty” is engraved above her bust, the national motto “In God We Trust” is to the lower-left field, and the date mark is featured on her shoulder. Weinman’s design of Liberty as viewed here was known as the Mercury Dime because the winged Phrygian cap reminded 20th century Americans of the Roman messenger god Mercury.
The reverse face of American Palladium Eagle coins also comes from Adolph A. Weinman, but was designed much earlier. This image of an American bald eagle resting on the edge of a cliff clutching a sapling comes from the 1903 American Institute of Architects’ gold medal. Never before used on coins, it is exclusive to the reverse side of Palladium Eagles.
The United States Mint debuted the bullion American Palladium Eagle in 2017 with a maximum mintage of 15,000 coins. A 2018 bullion version was not struck by the US Mint. Instead, the mint opted to introduced the Proof American Palladium Eagle in that year with the same low mintage of just 15,000 coins. The United States Mint has decided to make the American Palladium Eagle series a revolving program each year.
In 2019, the United States Mint took note of the intense demand for the American Palladium Eagle and introducing a new option not yet offered in the series. Following the 2017 bullion coin and the 2018 proof, the US Mint’s 2019 American Palladium Eagle is available as a reverse-proof specimen. The designs remain the same on the obverse and reverse fields of the coin, but each product has reverse proof visuals. This indicates that the coins have deeply-mirrored design elements with frosted background fields. More importantly, the palladium coins in the 2019 release have a maximum mintage of 30,000 coins compared to 15,000 coins each in the previous two releases.
Like investment-grade coins in other metals, palladium coins are available originally in Brilliant Uncirculated condition from the issuing mint. From time to time though, you may find certified palladium coins available to purchase as well. Most of these have the certification of the Professional Coin Grading Service or Numismatic Guaranty Corporation. The coins are most commonly assigned one of the top-two certifications on the Sheldon numeric scale:
Palladium coins typically have low mintage figures when all is said and done. If you want to own these beautiful specimens, you’ll have to act fast. If you have questions while purchasing palladium coins from JM Bullion, please don’t hesitate to ask. You can call our customer service team at 800-276-6508, chat with us live online, or simply send us an email with your inquiries.