Posted on February 23, 2018
For those who regularly buy silver bullion coins, it’s likely you’ve come across the nuisance of white spots (milky spots) at least once over the years. The occurrence of white spots is particularly bothersome to mints, investors, and collectors because it is a complex situation with no obvious solutions. Known in numismatic terms as milk spots, the appearance of white spots can happen during the coining process, during the handling & packaging process, and even after encapsulation in some cases.
The Royal Canadian Mint, as one of the leading refiners of gold and silver in the world today, recently unveiled a technological advancement for its coins to help cut down on the occurrence of milk spots on silver bullion. Introduced at the World Money Fair in Berlin on February 2nd and rolled out on all 2018-issue Canadian Silver Maple Leaf coins, MINTSHIELD is billed as the world’s “first and only proven solution for reducing milk spots on silver bullion coins.”
If you were hoping for a scientific breakdown of MINTSHIELD, the Royal Canadian Mint hasn’t been forthcoming with the actual information behind this proprietary new technology. RCM developed MINTSHIELD after subjecting Silver Maple Leaf bullion coins to a variety of advanced scientific tests and rigorous diagnostic procedures. The goal was to attempt to identify the root cause or causes of milk spots on coins. As a result of its hard work, the Royal Canadian Mint developed MINTSHIELD.
The Royal Canadian Mint wanted a solution that was efficient to apply in its large-scale coining environment, but that could also stand the test of time. During lab testing that simulated years of use, the Silver Maple Leaf coins treated with MINTSHIELD were able to resist milk spots when compared to other silver bullion coins.
While the Royal Canadian Mint isn’t sharing information about the composition of MINTSHIELD, or even its application, there are a few known factors. MINTSHIELD is an invisible barrier applied to the surface of 2018 Canadian Silver Maple Leaf coins that protects against milk spots without causing any alteration in the coin’s composition or purity. Available coins that feature the new MINTSHIELD technology currently in the JM Bullion catalog include:
There are no figures available that point to the prevalence of milk spots on modern silver bullion coins. The topic is a frequent pain point among investors and collectors who share their thoughts on blogs, as well as professional numismatic news sites online. Milk spots are particularly bothersome because they impact a coin’s aesthetic appeal. These white discolorations do not alter the precious metal content of the coin. While there is no impact on the face value of the issued coin, in some cases it does impact the resale value of the coin in a retail setting.
Milk spots are a major concern for collectors due to the impact on aesthetics. Proof coins, for example, are designed for collectors and typically held onto for years for their visual beauty. If a coin is bought in 2018 and looks great, but develops milk spots over time, then its overall value is lost because of the loss of visual brilliance.
So, why has it taken this long for a solution? For starters, it’s not known for certain why milk spots develop on coins. The NGC points out that the planchets from which modern silver bullion coins are produced are typically washed after they are made. The wash helps to remove any contaminants that may be on the surface of the planchet, and also gives each one a brighter appearance. It has been suggested that if those planchets are not thoroughly rinsed the remnants of the cleaning solution will cause milk spots to develop over time.
While this is a well-formed thought, it hasn’t been proven as the sole source or even a reliable source of milk spots. There is no way of knowing which modern silver coins will develop milk spots, and no real proven method of prevention. The NGC also points out that some collectors have noticed the ability of NGC holders/slabs to prevent (or at least delay) the occurrence of milk spots, but this too has not been scientifically proven.
For the time being, the Royal Canadian Mint is the only mint with this proven technology. RCM does not offer a 100% guarantee that MINTSHIELD works on every coin in every case, but it is the most advanced application available to help combat the occurrence of milk spots. Given the volume of coining that takes place at the Royal Canadian Mint, and the prevalence of its coins in the investment and collectible market, it’s a good starting point for those who hope to never see milk spots on their silver bullion again.
At this time, only the 2018 Canadian Silver Maple Leaf range of bullion coins (including 30th anniversary commemorative coins) feature the new MINTSHIELD technology. Those coins are available in the JM Bullion catalog for purchase today. We’d like to encourage our fans to follow us on Facebook, where you can learn about the latest coin releases coming to our catalog, communicate with other JM Bullion customers, and even participate in our gold and silver spot price contests. Also, don’t forget to read our blog each week to find out more detail on new coin release, exciting new technologies, and other information from the numismatic world.
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