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Gold Bullion Spotlight: Italy Umberto I 20 Lire

By Jay Turner for PCGS ……
Italy is not a country that is often thought of for its gold bullion.

Nevertheless. During the reign of Umberto I (1878 to 1900), a large number of gold 20 lire coins were produced. Due to the abundance of these coins and lack of collector demand for them, there is the opportunity for a coin that often trades close to bullion representing Italy.

Italy 1882-R 20 Lire, PCGS MS65. Courtesy of PCGS.
Italy 1882-R 20 Lire, PCGS MS65. Courtesy of PCGS.

Under Umberto’s reign, Italy experienced significant economic growth and development. The continued effort to stabilize the now-unified country included producing a unified currency that would be used and accepted across the entire nation. Umberto I’s reign also saw the desire for Italy’s expansionist ambitions. In 1882, Italy joined the Triple Alliance with Germany and Austria-Hungary, an agreement that led to Italy’s involvement with World War I and saw political stability in the region, helping Italy with trade and investment. Due to these factors, the money supply – including gold coin output – was increased under Umberto I.

Italy 1882/1 20 Lire, PCGS MS61. Courtesy of PCGS.
Italy 1882/1 20 Lire, PCGS MS61. Courtesy of PCGS.

The gold 20 lire minted under Umberto I began in 1879 and ended in 1897, providing the series with 15 dates, not including varieties. The Italian 20 lire from this series was produced in .900-fine gold with a weight of 6.4516 grams, yielding an actual gold weight of 0.1867 ounces per coin. Apart from the key date of 1884, which had a mintage of only 9,775 pieces, most of the dates trade for bullion rates or at a slight premium, exceptions being made for high-grade examples.

The most abundant date–and that which is most frequented as a bullion-trade piece–is 1882, which had a mintage of 6,970,000. There are also varieties that exist within the series that often command a premium over generic issues, such as the 1882/1 and the 1883/2. Besides the date of 1882, most dates of the 20 lire coins have significantly lower mintages than other bullion coins. The 1881 has the second-highest mintage, with only 843,028 coins minted. After that, the mintage from 1884 drops to 164,734 pieces, and many other dates fall below 100,000 minted.

So, if you are looking to increase diversity in your bullion stack or seek the opportunity within an underappreciated area of numismatics, the gold 20 lire coins of Umberto I are an option.

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