After a gap of three years, the United States Mint may bring back the American Platinum Eagle bullion coins. Although numismatic versions have continued to be issued annually, the bullion versions have not been minted or issued since 2008.
The American Platinum Eagle was introduced in 1997, complementing the US Mint’s existing gold and silver bullion coin offerings. The Platinum Eagles were struck in .9995 purity and available in one ounce, one-half ounce, one-quarter ounce, and one-tenth ounce sizes. The coins carried legal tender denominations of $10, $25, $50, and $100, the latter being the highest denomination ever used in U.S. coinage. Like the US Mint’s other bullion offerings, the coins were distributed through a network of authorized purchasers, who were able to buy the coins from the Mint in bulk quantities for resale to secondary distributors and the public.
The Platinum Eagle bullion coins first went on sale to authorized purchasers on September 23, 1997. In just under six months, more than 100,000 ounces worth of platinum was sold through the program. Despite the strong initial interest, by the third year of the program, sales levels began to diminish. Annual sales reached their lowest level in 2007, when just 9,050 ounces worth of platinum were sold.
In 2008, demand for the Platinum Eagle bullion coins increased, as was the case for gold and silver bullion coins. The US Mint recorded sales of 33,700 ounces worth of platinum bullion coins before announcing a suspension of production in order to devote additional resources to the production of gold and silver bullion coins.
The following year, production of platinum bullion coins was announced as delayed and later cancelled altogether. Unlike American Gold and Silver Eagles, which must be produced to meet public demand, the production of the American Platinum Eagle is not legally mandated, rather it is at the discretion of the Secretary of the Treasury. The US Mint did produce and offer one ounce proof versions of the 2009 Platinum Eagle for collectors. The maximum mintage of 8,000 coins promptly sold out.
The situation was similar for 2010 and 2011. Platinum Eagle bullion coins were not minted or issued, but one ounce proof versions were struck in limited quantities and offered to collectors.
Recently, the US Mint has stated that they are evaluating in conjunction with their authorized purchasers the optimum way to bring back the bullion versions of the American Platinum Eagle in 2012. While this will be a welcome return for many collectors and precious metal investors, the US Mint will find itself facing increased competition from other world mints. After the US Mint had suspended and cancelled production of their platinum bullion coins, other world mints had revived or created products to fill the void.
In 2009, the Royal Canadian Mint resumed the offering of Platinum Maple Leaf bullion coins. The product had originally been introduced in 1988, but was suspended in 1999 when demand for the coins began to drop.
In 2011, the Perth Mint of Australia introduced the Platinum Platypus bullion coins. The Perth Mint had last offered a platinum bullion coin in 2000, but withdrew the offering amidst low sales. The new offering has fared much better, with the inaugural issue selling out of the 30,000 maximum production, followed by the recent release of the 2012 Platinum Platypus.