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The Platinum American Eagle: A Study in Nobility


By Ron DrzewuckiModern Coin Wholesale …..
Like silver and gold, platinum has a multitude of uses. It can be found in both your car’s catalytic converter and your jewelry box.

And like other precious metals, platinum also serves as an investment vehicle. Many investors look to the private ownership of bullion to provide a level of economic security and peace of mind.

But we don’t automatically associate it with coins, at least not as naturally as we do gold or silver. There have been historical issues of circulating platinum coins–Spanish America in the 18th century, Russia in the 19th–but the metal was too difficult to work and a coin made of platinum looked like coins made of cheaper, less valuable metals.

It wasn’t until the late 1970s that world mints began to use platinum for bullion coins. The United States didn’t issue any until the ‘90s.

History and Specifications

Former United States Mint Director Edmund C. Moy may have written the book, but it was fellow former Mint Director Philip Diehl that initiated the Platinum American Eagle program in 1995. Gold and Silver American Eagles had been in production for almost 10 years by that point.

So with additional lobbying by David Ganz, President of the American Numismatic Association (ANA), and the Platinum Guild International, in 1996 Congress authorized the production of Platinum bullion and proof coins.

The first Platinum American Eagles were released in 1997, with four different face value denominations based on weight.

2015 Platinum Eagle Reverse

Specifications are as follows:

  • $100: one troy ounce fine platinum; diameter 32.7 mm; thickness 2.39 mm
  • $50: one half troy ounce fine platinum; diameter 27 mm; thickness 1.75 mm
  • $25: one quarter troy ounce fine platinum; diameter 22 mm; thickness 1.32 mm
  • $10: one tenth troy ounce fine platinum; diameter 16.5 mm; thickness 0.95 mm

Each denomination’s design is the same, except for inscriptions on the reverse that identify their respective weights and face values.


The obverse features a close-up, head-on portrait of the Statue of Liberty, cropped in such a way as to almost be a bust. The design, entitled “Liberty Looking to the Future”, is the work of retired Chief Engraver of the U.S. Mint John Mercanti (View Designer’s Profile). Besides the Silver American Eagle reverse, Mercanti has also designed a significant number of recent commemoratives–including a clutch of state quarter reverses and the 1986 Statue of Liberty commemorative silver dollar.

As a matter of fact, one gets the idea that if you zoomed in on Lady Liberty’s face on the 1986 silver dollar obverse, you’d have the artwork for the Platinum American Eagle.

The reverse of the regular issue bullion coin was designed by Thomas D. Rogers and featured an eagle gliding far above a small crop of land with the rays of the sun placed prominently in the background.

The proof reverses, however, are unique in that they’re the only American bullion coin designs that change every year. From 1998 through 2002, the theme was “Vistas of Liberty”. Each year featured a different image of an eagle flying over one of the many diverse terrains of our country.

From 2006 through 2008, the theme was the “Foundations of Democracy”.

Starting in 2009 and continuing through 2015, the reverse features a design based on the Preamble of the Constitution as “narrated” by Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts.

(For that fact alone, the coin is a fascinating collectible. I can’t think of any other coin in American History that a Supreme Court Justice had a hand in designing, can you?)


The Platinum American Eagle is even interesting from an investment perspective. Yes, it’s made of a precious metal that’s 30 times rarer than gold and usually sells for a higher spot price. And yes, a bullion coin makes it easier to move and store your wealth, and its fineness is backed by the full faith and credit of the United States Government.

Rogers Bullion Coin Reverse

But did you know you that Platinum Eagles are allowed as part of your Individual Retirement Account, or IRA?

In fact, the Security Exchange Commission (SEC) classifies the Platinum Eagle as a precious metal commodity, which means that the government believes its intrinsic value will always outweigh any possible numismatic premium the coin may accrue.

Which seems like a strange thing to say. Aren’t they implying that the Platinum Eagle isn’t much of a collectible? I would have to respectfully disagree, and then respectfully suggest that the government isn’t the best prognosticator of the coin market.

You may disagree.

At any rate, it’s a beautiful coin made of one of the most beautiful metals on Earth. Beautiful because platinum is an extremely nonreactive element and is therefore more resistant to corrosion and blemishes than silver and gold. It’s nonreactivity is the reason it’s called a noble metal.

You probably learned about the noble gasses in school. Well, platinum is like that, only metal at room temperatures.

Also, other metals used to make bullion coins (such as palladium) are part of the platinum group of metals, or PGMs. And interestingly, the platinum and palladium mining industries are almost exclusively located in South Africa and Russia. Labor unrest in South Africa and geopolitical conflict with Russia threaten at all times to send the prices of both metals on a steep course upward.

(A similar situation exists with China and the rare earth metals used in your smartphones and tablets, but I digress.)

Anyway, if you’re interested in bullion coins as a means of wealth insurance, then consider diversifying your metal holdings and give platinum a look.


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