“Numismatic” is an odd word
The general public is not likely to run across the term, “numismatic” very often. However, as a reader of BOLD Thoughts blog you are interested in coins, particularly those made of precious metals. Your interest very likely includes research to decide which products you should buy. Obviously, it is worthwhile to understand better what this term means, and how it could influence your decisions.
The American Numismatic Society defines it as the study of coins, currency, medals, tokens, and related objects from all cultures, past and present. More specifically though, the term refers to coins etc., having a value beyond the materials from which they are made. This numismatic, or collectable value may be due a number of different factors. It could be related to a coin’s age, condition, rarity, design, or historical significance. Most often it includes a combination of these factors. We will limit our focus here on precious metal coins, those made from silver or gold.
NUMISMATIC AND BULLION
Gold and silver coins fall into two very broad categories, numismatic and bullion. Numismatic coins carry a larger premium based on the factors listed above. Bullion coins are valued primarily on the composition or weight of the precious metal they contain. To this is added a small premium to cover manufacturing and sales costs.
Below is a side-by-side example of two British 1 Sovereign coins. They are both gold, minted in England, and both carry the same denomination. The left coin features Queen Victoria, minted in the late 1880s. The right coin features Queen Elizabeth, minted in 2016. They both contain the same amount of gold. However, depending on its condition, the older Victoria sells for 2 to 3 times the price of the modern Elizabeth. This illustrates how numismatic value can increase the premium price of a gold or silver coin.
Now that we have a handle on numismatic vs bullion, let’s examine a sub-category of coins known as semi-numismatics. As you might guess, these are coins that exhibit both bullion and numismatic traits. Generally, they are bullion coins that have a limited mintage (total number produced) and are attractive to collectors. Collectors’ heightened interest includes the coin’s design, special features, form factor, or overall series popularity.
While in production, a semi-numismatic coin can be purchased at a reasonable premium over the spot price of the metal. It might be slightly higher than a pure bullion coin, but not by very much. Once the production is completed and mint inventory sells out, the premium over spot bumps up. As the inventory at dealers dwindles, the premium rises more.
Keep in mind the premium is that portion of the purchase price that is higher than the spot. The spot is the current value of the coin’s metal if you were to melt it down. Once all inventory is depleted, semi-numismatic coins become available only on the secondary market. And that happens only when the original purchaser decides to sell it. Depending on supply and demand, the numismatic factors (discussed earlier) impact the coin’s premium, usually pushing it higher.
There is no guarantee that any particular coin or series will exhibit this semi-numismatic behavior. Neither is there a formula to calculate what the premium appreciation will become over time. However, there are clues to help you as an investor/collector identify which coins are more likely to become semi-numismatic.
BEST OF BOTH WORLDS
Why should you care? As the blog post title states, because a semi-numismatic coin is the best of both worlds! It provides all the benefits of owning gold or silver bullion while providing the upside of investment appreciation. This appreciation is independent of the metal’s future spot price! While there is no right or wrong way to buy precious metals (assuming you buy from a reputable dealer at fair prices), BOLD encourages our customers to consider semi-numismatic potential when deciding what coins to buy.
For first releases in a new series, you have to make some educated guesses. An example of this would be the Lion of England, the first coin in the Royal Mint’s new Queen’s Beasts series. It has some characteristics that might result in modest premium appreciation, yet only time will tell.
Sometimes a single release within a series will have more potential for premium appreciation than others in the same series. The 2016 Chinese Panda is an example of this as the first sovereign bullion coin measured in grams versus troy ounces. There are more clues available for an active series though, like the America The Beautiful 5oz silver quarters. Here is a short list of considerations you can use to identify semi-numismatic potential:
- Is the coin part of a series with broad appeal?
- How difficult is it to locate past releases in the series?
- Does the market indicate a willingness to pay a premium for past releases in the series?
- How much of a premium does a current release in the series command?
The answers you are looking for are 1-Yes, 2-Not too difficult, 3-Yes, 4-Not too much.
In the end, the most significant advantage of collecting precious metal coins versus just about any other collectible is the coin’s intrinsic value. Regardless of how the collectable numismatic premium may increase or decrease in the future, the coin will always maintain the value of the precious metal from which it is made.