The Key Date 1998 Mexico Silver Onza Libertad

By Sanjay Gandhi for PCGS ……
 

One bullion coin that has always been in extraordinarily high demand by world coin collectors is the Onza Silver bullion coin issued by the Banco de México. This one-ounce coin was first struck in 1949, and was resumed in 1978, 1979, and 1980. In 1982, this newly redesigned Onza was reintroduced with a reverse featuring the “Angel of Independence”, with two twin volcanoes — Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl — in the background. The obverse depicts the classic “Eagle with Snake” in beak and the bottom half of the snake held with its talons. An updated reverse design was used in 1996 that displays a more modern depiction of the “Winged Liberty”, which is a term that is used by collectors.

A growing number of people in the United States are of Mexican-American descent. Many collectors like to collect coins representing part of their heritage, as I’ve encountered in the past. My first serious foray into numismatics started with collecting coins from India. The Libertad bullion series has limited mintages, some less than others, and a growing collector base. Collectors that seek to complete the following Set Registry offering, Mexican Onza Silver, Circulation Strikes (1982-present), will have plenty of competition, and obtaining key dates will become more difficult as prices steadily continue to rise.

Take the 1998 one-ounce circulation strike for example; it’s the key date of the Onza series and has a mintage of 67,000 coins. To date, it has the lowest mintage of any one-ounce coin, excluding Proof strikings as exhibited by the chart below.

Mintage of uncirculated silver Libertad coins from The Bank Of Mexico. Public domain image courtesy of Wikimedia.
Mintage of Uncirculated silver Libertad coins from The Bank Of Mexico. Public domain image courtesy of Wikimedia.

If we go “back to the future” in a modified DeLorean DMC-12 to 2016, ungraded examples of this coin have been selling between $140 and $220 on eBay. During 2016, sellers from Germany were offering 1998 Onzas on the website that were housed in a plastic coin capsule and German collectors are not very fond of rim dings on their coins to my knowledge. The capsule was not issued by the Bank of Mexico and was an aftermarket addition. However, plastic capsules do provide a high degree of protection against any damage to the rim/surfaces of the coin and also prevents clanging, banging, and everything we don’t want to happen to our bullion coins.

Nowadays, in 2022, the price for a 1998 Onza is about $600 for a good-looking, ding-free, ungraded example – which is higher than the current listed price of $135 by Krause-Mishler (KM).

Bullion is extremely condition sensitive–99.99% pure, soft, and prone to getting banged up very easily. The mint packaging did provide good protection overall but preventing abrasions on the high points of the Libertads is almost impossible. Especially the obverse, which has multiple high points, but the packaging does an adequate job of protecting the rim of the coins. Libertads were originally issued in rolls of 20, and the tube was made out of foil-like cardboard and loosely closed with a seal from Banco de México. The coins moved somewhat inside these foil rolls, but thankfully Libertads are now issued in snugger plastic tubes with 25 coins per tube, which provide less jiggle room. This sturdier packaging still does not entirely solve the problem of coins rubbing against each other that are stacked on top of each other like poker chips.

Some of the more recent issues have scant mintages, which has driven demand. Demand will more than likely outstrip supply going forward as the collector base increases, and the price of the 1998 Libertad will remain a key date and in high demand for many years to come. Trends do come and go with all types of collectibles markets, and some take longer to develop than others. But the trend of collecting Onzas/Libertads is one that is likely to increase for many years into the future.

Happy Collecting, folks!

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