Palladium Looks Golden

Posted on 10/11/2018

The US Mint picked a great time to start making palladium coins.

As this article goes to press, I am technically on vacation. But even when I am off the clock, coins are a topic of conversation and daily research.

I can’t help myself – I am compelled to take a look at how the markets are doing and if there are any significant sales results to ponder. I can’t help it; I am first and foremost a coindexter.

Palladium near parity with gold

As I quickly scan the metals markets this Monday morning I note that all are pulling further back a tad. The lone exception is the darling of the precious metals. Palladium is moving upward. Actually, Palladium is within 12% of the spot price of gold! For reference, exactly a year ago, the spread between the two was 38%. Two years ago, the margin was 88%!

2018 Proof Palladium Eagle
Click image to enlarge.

Demand for the metal in the auto industry has previously driven the prices near their all-time highs, when palladium was in the $1,100 trading range. In early 2001, it rose to around $1,000 when it was bought and stockpiled (primarily for use in catalytic convertors) by Ford. Subsequently, palladium fell dramatically, but over the last 5 years it has been roaring back. Recently, it reached the $1,100 price point, topping $1,129 in trading on my birthday (January 15) this year.

Of course, the 2017 US Palladium Eagle and the recently released 2018 Proof Palladium Eagle have put the glamorous and strategic metal into the numismatic spotlight as collectors and dealers are still scurrying to secure raw and certified examples for customers.

Being a researcher, I had to check the last time Palladium had bested Gold on the world stage. Interestingly, it also occurred in the month of October, in 2002. For those of you who are curious, the first occasion of the minting of Palladium coins in the modern era was for the 1967 Tonga Coronation issue of the 1/4, 1/2 and 1 Hau denominations!

Columbus Day beauty!

Ian Russell’s Great Collections online auction, ending October 7, yielded some superb results for NGC-graded coins, including this rather apropos 1892 Columbian Exposition Half, graded NGC MS 67★, which realized $3,466. This coin is a wonderfully preserved ultra-gem endowed with spectacular uniform rainbow of color visiting the obverse and reverse in compelling Technicolor unison. According to the NGC Census, only two coins grade numerically higher, yet I can’t envision them being superior in overall appearance to this example!

1892 Columbian Exposition Half Dollar, graded NGC MS 67★realized: $3,466
Click images to enlarge.

However, for the average collector not seeking an ultra-gem, this 1892 issue would make for a great and highly affordable type coin or a fine addition to a classic Silver Commems series

This 126-year-old silver coin is also historic on several fronts. The 1892 Half Dollar is the first US commemorative coin, and the Columbian Expo is certainly one of the most historic entries within the entire 144-piece series, which is populated by numerous less-than-worthy “historic” issues that were authorized and appeared in the mid- to late 1930s.

Commemorating the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s first voyage, Charles Barber’s stately obverse design, featuring the profiled bust of Columbus, in my opinion is one of his greater works. This also marks the first instance of featuring a “foreigner” on US coinage!

George T. Morgan’s reverse design prominently displays Columbus’s flagship, the Santa Maria, with the date 1492 divided by two globes depicting the Western and Eastern hemispheres. Although the coins were originally proposed as a funding tool to help offset the soaring cost of putting on the 1892 Colombian Exposition in Chicago, the $1 price tag for coins left many of the original 950,000 coins unsold, and they later entered general circulation.

Quite amazingly, I have seen many of these coins offered up in nice VF/XF condition for little more than melt! Mint state examples are also highly affordable. Consider this: MS 60 coins are listed in the NGC Price Guide at a mere $34, MS 63 at $80 and MS 64 at $150. To collectors both veteran and newbie, don’t overlook this issue. From a collector’s standpoint and value, you can’t go wrong!

Collecting my thoughts

But since I am off the clock, I figured I would take some time this week to enjoy the hobby firsthand, and review and organize my own collection a bit. While I have a modest accumulation of US coins, I have always been a world coin enthusiast.

Since my pre-teen years, I have been inspired by and collected world coins, with the emphasis on British Commonwealth countries. The majority of the coins are uncertified, and many have been stored in 2x2 white cardboard Mylar “portholes,” in many instances for 50 years or more. Australia, British India, Great Britain, Southern Rhodesia... where to start?

Actually, considering the size and scope of my world coin ensemble, I am going to try and select about 20 coins that I will submit to NGC for grading. It should be a challenge and fun to select and submit my best of the best!

Until next time, happy collecting!

Jim Bisognani is an NGC Price Guide Analyst, having previously served for many years as an analyst and writer for another major price guide. He has written extensively on US coin market trends and values.

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