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Bullion Coins In a Nutshell

February 28th, 2012 Coins

Bullion coins have become a large source of revenue for a number of nations, including the United States, South Africa, Austria and Canada. According to Numismaster.com, bullion coins visually look exactly like their circulated counterparts, but they tend to be made from a much more purified metal, which means they're worth far more than the printed value. Even today, mints continue to release bullion coins, and they're a great way to add value to your collection. If you're interested in learning more, here is a basic history about how they are valued.

1. Purity. Bullion coins are struck on almost pure metal - in general, you'll see silver coins advertised as .999 fine, though in recent years that number has been bumped up to four nines, almost entirely for marketing purposes. Note that 100 percent pure silver can only be found in a laboratory. You will always have trace impurities in bullion coins, regardless of what material it's made out of. Silver Eagle Coins are slightly different - these days, they're slightly larger than they have been in the past, but the purity has dropped to .9993.

Gold bullion coins are .9167 fine and can be found in four different "denominations." Though traditionally these pieces were bought and sold in one-ounce $50 coins, the dramatic increase in the cost of the precious metal has caused the price to skyrocket. As a result, you can now purchase gold bullion in 1/10, 1/4 and 1/2-ounce weights as well.

Finally, though perhaps less common than the other two, platinum can be found in the same denominations as gold and are .9995 fine. Depending on how much money you are willing to spend and which metal you're interested in collecting, you will likely end up choosing between silver and gold, as they tend to be dealt more frequently than platinum.

2. Types of bullion coins. There have been a number of bullion coins released throughout the years. An intrepid collector may set about completing one of these collections. Not only does this give you a concrete and attainable goal, but it's a great way to shore up an investment portfolio as you pursue your hobby. Note that the amount of a given metal does vary depending on the series, and that these prices tend to fluctuate more wildly than with circulated coins, simply because their value is tied more closely to market prices.

American Eagle and Buffalo coins are popular among collectors today - they typically contain a quarter of an ounce of gold. The original Eagles, which were produced between 1838 and 1933, had a less than half an ounce. According to the US Mint, after a 50 year gap, new Eagles began production in 1986. A special set was released in 2011 to mark the 25th anniversary of the coin's mintage.

If you're interested in collecting bullion coins, it helps to have an understanding of the precious metals market. Because their value is much more closely tied to these prices, having familiarity with market trends may help you find decent prices for the pieces you're interested in. If money is an issue, you can consider starting with silver coins - the metal is naturally less expensive than gold, which gives new collectors a great point of entry. As your collection grows in value, you can decide if you'd like to take the plunge.