After much delay, disappointment, and potential mystery, the United States Mint appears to finally be making enough progress on its proposed palladium coin in order to be ready for production in 2017.
The U.S. has never issued a palladium coin before in its history. Russia, Canada, and a few others have briefly issued such bullion coins in the past—the Canadian Palladium Maple Leaf and the Russian Ballerina. It's worth noting that these past issues, as well as the proposed U.S. coin on the table, are all essentially bullion coins rather than collectibles. A collectible palladium coin could have some appeal for its novelty, but (similar to platinum) the high price of this metal and close similarity to the appearance of silver makes such a collectible unlikely to attract much demand.
The law that authorized the platinum U.S. coin initially called for a feasibility study. Early findings indicated that there was not nearly enough potential demand for a palladium coin to justify its minting. However, the mint appears to have cleared the way for the issuance of just such a coin in the near future by waiving the need for the feasibility study before the coin can be minted.
Perhaps one important change has been the steady decline in the palladium spot price, making this coin more affordable for consumers. The somewhat forgotten precious metal is currently trading around $620/oz—well above its 2016 lows below $500/oz but also a far cry from its levels above $900/oz as recently as 2014.
The new palladium coin will use the Mercury dime (or Winged Liberty dime) design created by A.A. Weinman on the obverse and an original reverse design showing an eagle and an olive branch crafted by the American Institute of Architects. The coin will feature a visually stunning high relief design. Although the diameter specifications haven't been hammered out yet, we do know that it will bear a $25 denomination as legal tender. It will be struck from .9995 fine (99.95% pure) palladium.
Coin World reports that Ronald Harrigal, the Acting Quality Manager for the U.S. Mint, indicated that "U.S. Mint officials are consulting with officials at the Royal Canadian Mint who have experience with producing palladium coins. The RCM ceased regular production of a Maple Leaf palladium bullion coin because of the fluctuation in demand."
Although this coin was originally planned for 2016, which marks the centennial anniversary of the Mercury dime's introduction in 1916, it is far more likely that it won't be ready for production until 2017. Still, this would be historic as the first palladium coin ever issued by the U.S. Mint.
Aside from being a precious metal, palladium is also an important industrial metal. Like platinum, it is used in the catalytic converters that help reduce the amount of pollution created by automobile exhaust.
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