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Platinum is one of the most valuable metals on the market. While it is used today in automobile catalytic converters, computer components, petroleum refining, jewelry, and medicine, the use of platinum alloy can be traced back to pre-Columbian civilizations. These pre-industrial South Americans alloyed platinum with gold to produce a white metal for ornamental purposes.
The use of platinum coins dates to 18th century Spanish-Colonial America. However, platinum was never widely used as currency. Today many platinum coins come in commemorative sets. The US has the largest number of different designs in existence even if it wasn't the first country to produce platinum bullion coins.
The American Platinum Eagle was first released in 1997. The coins are denominated at $100 making them the highest face-value coins produced by the US Mint. The Mint began producing proof versions of the popular platinum coin shortly after launching the bullion strike coins. Proof versions are available in the full range of sizes - 1/10, ¼, ½ and 1 oz. Bullion coins are available exclusively as 1 oz.
To date the US Mint went through four different design programs for the Proof American Platinum Eagle coin. The first five years revolved around the American bald eagle, which could be seen flying over different American scenery each year. This was always depicted on the reverse side of the coin. This theme is referred to as the Vistas of Liberty.
From 2006 to 2008, the theme used for the reverse side was known as Foundations of Democracy. Coins were released with representations of the US Congress, the legislative branch of the US government, and a representation of the judicial branch of the government in the image of Lady Justice. The American bald eagle was also a recurring theme.
From 2009 to 2014, the theme of the coins revolved around the preface of the US Constitution. The first coin was fittingly designed to represent diversity and the last coin featured Liberty holding her torch at sunrise. The last coin's theme was named "Secure the Blessings of Liberty to Ourselves and our Posterity."
The 2015 and 2016 themes are called "Liberty Nurtures Freedom" and "Torch of Enlightenment." They are parts of individual design programs but continue to use the recurring theme of the American bald eagle.
They would come in 1 oz weights as well as fractional weight coins. However, since 2008 fractional weight versions of the Proof American Platinum Eagle were no longer produced; this increases their value with collectors even more. It is estimated that annually less than 10,000 platinum bullion coins are struck by the US Mint, although the rise in demand may lead to an increase in the coming years.
Canada released its Platinum Maple Leaf coins in 1988. From 1998 to 2001, the coins were minted in different weights and sizes. It wasn't until 2009 that the Canadian Platinum Maple Leaf was standardized as a 1 oz coin. The sides of the coin depict the maple leaf and a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II - sharing the iconic design with the gold and silver version of the Maple Leaf.
The last few years have been great for the platinum bullion market which saw the release of many new platinum coins. One of them, the Austrian Platinum Philharmonic, was struck in 2016 and it was the first time in Austria's history that platinum was used for bullion coins. The front side of the coin shows the Great Pipe Organ from the Golden Concert Hall in Vienna. The reverse shows an assortment of musical instruments commonly used by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.
Since 2011, tens of thousands Australian Platinum Platypus coins have been struck by the Perth Mint. Each coin is .9995 pure platinum and features the Australian native platypus on the reverse side. The front side depicts a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II as she has been depicted in the 4th generation portrait which dates back to 1998. These coins were first released to celebrate the platypus, the unique mammal that inhabits the Land Down Under.
The Perth Mint plans to replace the platinum Platypus with the more popular Kangaroo design starting in 2018.
Another rather new platinum coin is the British Platinum Queen's Beast. 2017 was the first year in which this coin was struck at the Royal Mint. A right-sided portrait of Queen Elizabeth is featured on the front. The back of the coin depicts the Lion of England and the kingdom's heraldic shield. The Royal Mint will release the next design in the series - The Dragon of Wales - in 2018.
The 1 oz British Britannia will be available in platinum in 2018 as well. This coin is struck in .9995 purity and features Lady Britainnia - the female embodiment of the British Isles - on the reverse.
The 1oz Isle of Man Platinum Noble coins were only struck between 1983 and 1989. They feature a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II on the front and the value of "One Noble" on the back along with a Viking longboat as a reminder of the country's history. Around the Queen's portrait, there are also engravings which specify her name, the year the coin was issued, and the nation of issue.
The Somalian Platinum Elephant was first produced in 2016. The .9995 pure platinum coin features the Somali national crest on the reverse side and an Elephant near a river bank in a sunrise setting. Until 2016, the Somalian Elephant coin was only available in silver and gold.
Platinum's price history is more volatile than that of gold. When platinum prices corrected during the slump which began in mid-2011, it dropped by 2/3 of its value compared to gold which only lost 1/3. The price, which had always been higher than gold, dropped below that of the yellow metal. Many investors see platinum trading at a discount relative to gold as an opportunity to buy.
Platinum coins aren't the only way you can invest. Just like gold and silver, investors can also purchase platinum in bar form. Bars are generally a bit less expensive than coins, and can be a good option for those who simply want the best price.
With the US alone releasing over a dozen different designs and many other countries now minting platinum coins, collectors can add a wide variety of interesting coins to their stash. As with any precious metals investment, Money Metals recommends lower cost bullion coins as the core of any platinum holding.