Palladium Saint Gaudens Ultra High Relief Revisited
Legislation to create Palladium Ultra High Relief Double Eagle bullion and numismatic coins was recently introduced in the Senate. Since several readers have been commenting about it, I wanted to review the proposed legislation in a full post.
Similar legislation had also been introduced last year. One version of the bill was voted on and passed by the House, but it did not progress further and never became law.
The latest legislation was introduced on April 1, 2009 as S. 758: Original Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle Ultra-High Relief Bullion Coin Act of 2009. The bill seeks to aurthorize both numismatic and bullion palladium coins with the classic Saint Gaudens design. The current status of the bill is "Referred to Committee." In order for the bill to become law, it must be approved by the Senate and House of Representatives and signed into law by the President. You can check the bill's current status at Govtrack.us.
The numismatic coins described in the bill would be exact replicas of the original 27 millimeter version of the 1907 Double Eagle Ultra High Relief Gold Coin except for stated variations. The stated variations indicate that the coins would have a finish that closely approximates the original , bear the denomination of the coin, the date of issue expressed in Roman Numerals, and the motto "In God We Trust." These numismatic coins would be produced at the West Point Mint with a maximum mintage of 15,000.
At the option of the Secretary of the Treasury, a gold bullion coin of the same design may be minted and issued. If the gold version is issued, each numismatic palladium coin could only be issued in a set containing one of each coin. The set would be provided in a "presentation case of appropriate design" and could only be issued in 2009.
The bullion coins described in the bill would bear a likeness of the original obverse and reverse of the 1907 Ultra High Relief Double Eagle. The stated variations indicate that the coin would include raised edge lettering to indicate the weight and purity of the coin, bear the denomination of the coin, the date of issue in Roman Numerals, and the motto "In God We Trust." The bullion coins would be minted at any facility other than the West Point Mint and would be produced in "such number... as the Secretary may determine to be appropriate."
The palladium used for each version of the coin would have a purity of .995. The bill specifies the sources of the palladium bullion used in the coins as palladium mined from natural deposits of the United States within the one year period before the coins are minted.
There are several curious aspects of the legislation that make the proposed coin seem strange or problematic.
Why the 27 millimeter diameter? The legislation specifically requires the coins to have a diameter of 27 millimeters, after the original design. Did the authors of the bill consider the fact that the volume of palladium is about 60% greater than that of gold? The Ultra High Relief in gold already has a thick diameter of 4 millimeters. Would a bullion coin with a thickness over 6 millimeters just start to look funny?
Why the Ultra High Relief Double Eagle design? When similar bills were introduced last year, authorization was not yet in place to produce the UHR Double Eagle in gold, although the US Mint had indicated their intentions to produce the coin. The bill would have provided authorization for the desired UHR in gold, as well as authorize the palladium bullion coin. The UHR Gold Double Eagle was subsequently authorized directly by the Treasury Secretary and has been on sale for the past several months. This makes a portion of the current bill redundant and negates a portion of the original intention. Why not make a fresh attempt at authorizing a palladium bullion coin with a different classic design?
And finally, why a palladium bullion coin in the first place? The Royal Canadian Mint is the only world mint that has ever offered a palladium bullion coin. The Palladium Maple Leaf was offered only from 2005 to 2007 before production of the coin was stopped. In the final year, only 15,000 coins were sold. Maybe a classic design would draw interest from coin collectors, but is there enough demand from precious metals investors to justify a palladium bullion coin program? Here, I will point out that the sponsor and cosponsor of the bill are both Senators from Montana, the location of the only active palladium mine in the United States.
Numismatically, this bill seems a bit interesting, but probably more odd. Whether it has a chance of gaining sufficient political support to become law is another question. On Coin Network, there's an ongoing discussion on the Palladium Saint Gaudens Double Eagle. Feel free to join in with your opinions.
Labels: US Mint