This past week, the US Mint sold out of the one ounce 2009 Proof Platinum Eagle. As no bullion coins or fractional sizes were minted this year, it was the only US Platinum coin produced in 2009.
Released at Noon Eastern on Thursday, December 3, 2009, the Platinum Eagles were limited to a mintage of only 8,000. Over 7,200 of those sold in the first few days, even with a household order limit of 5 pieces in place. The US Mint sold just 4,769 of the one ounce proof coins during all of last year.
Some had theorized that this year’s run would be challenged by the high price of the coin ($1792.00) and the relatively unpopular new design. However, given the huge demand for precious metals this year for investment (gold, silver, platinum, palladium), it’s hard to be completely surprised that this coin sold out so quickly.
Nope. 2008 the US Mint only sold 4,769 coins. This year, they sell out early at 8000 coins.
The case for buying platinum right now is fairly strong:
- The relative price of platinum to gold is extremely low, given gold’s huge run up. A few years ago, platinum cost over 3x an equivalent amount of gold. At current prices, the two metals are approaching parity.
- Simple investment vehicles in Platinum and Palladium, like ETFs, do exist (they trade in London), but don’t have popular US versions (yet), so investment demand remains weak compared to it’s ETF-rich brethren of gold (GLD) and silver (SLV).
- The automotive industry, which is the largest consumer of platinum and palladium, is extremely depressed. However, since the demand for fuel efficient cars is growing, the use of these metals in catalytic converters and fuel cells seems to forecast significant future demand when the industry recovers.
That being said, I was surprised when I searched eBay for completed listings for the 2009 Platinum Eagle. Normally, when there is a sell out at the US Mint, you immediately see panic buying on eBay for huge premiums over the US Mint price.
Here is the query. What you see is that, as of December 12, the prices range from $1727 to $2050, hardly a premium given the transaction costs of eBay / PayPal which can easily run 8-9%.
As a result, I have to wonder:
- Was the sell out the product of true individual demand for the coin? Or was this a case of coin dealers speculating on a sell out and premium collectible opportunity?
The problem with the Platinum Eagle series is that it’s unclear how many collectors actually try to build “the complete set” of these expensive coins. Set building is typically the primary driver for premium values for the silver and gold eagle series.
I’ll be watching the completed auctions closely this coming week. There are a couple sellers already experimenting with higher prices. Let’s see if they stick.