Gold Bullion:  Coins, Bars, and Medallions

Gold Bullion:  Coins, Bars, and Medallions in Gold

Gold bullion comes in several forms, and the first consideration is what form would best fit your needs.


Gold bullion coins are official issues of a mint that bear a denomination.  While they are not likely to be spent, they are technically money.  Coins are issued by, or on the authority of, a legitimate government.  They are marked up, but not to the extent of a commemorative gold coin.  In fact, they are often very close to the price of medallions and rounds.  Bullion gold coins issued by a government have that government’s assurance for both purity of the gold and the weight of the coin.  One reason for choosing coins is that they also have a numismatic value, so there is an extra chance of the value going up.


Gold bullion bars, also called gold ingots, are gold pieces that are bought for an investment in a precious metal.  Gold bars are usually rectangular in shape, and preferred by those who are minimizing storage space.  There is no prohibition against mints producing rectangular coins, so it is possible to find a gold bar that is also a coin.  Gold bars issued from a government mint offer assurance that when issued both the purity and weight were correct.  One reason people choose bars is that they stack with little lost space.  Storage space can be costly, especially if bank boxes are used.  More bars can be placed in a bank box than coins or medallions.


Gold medallions, or gold rounds, are similar to gold coins, but do not have a monetary value from a legitimate government.  They can be slightly lower in price to purchase, but do not have the added potential of going up in value because of numismatic appreciation.   They are often not guaranteed for purity and weight by a government, as a coin is.  So, the reputation of the issuing entity must be considered.

Gold Bullion:  The Purity of the Gold

Is the Gold 24-Karat?

The purity of gold bullion is important.  The purest gold coins are almost all gold.  Circulation pieces would not hold up if minted in pure gold, the metal is just too soft.  But, a gold coin or gold ingot not intended to be handled nearly as much as it would be in circulation and can be produced to a purity of 0.9999.  Gold of 0.999 was considered the purest gold, then the Royal Canadian Mint went to 0.9999 pure.  There is really not much of a practical difference, but psychologically the 0.9999 gold became more desirable.  Other mints soon followed.


When buying bullion one must consider what will impact its value when selling, even if it is just a perception.  And, if this high purity is important to someone, the exact year of the coin, such as a Maple Leaf, might need be considered, for changes in specifications occur within series.


In some cases, less pure gold might be desired.  In the United States the Gold American Eagle coin is just 0.9167 pure, but remains significant in its country of origin.  And the Gold Sovereign of the United Kingdom has universal appeal, because it is such a respected form of gold bullion.  Yet, it had a purity of just 0.9167, or 22-karat gold.


Impurities in gold are not always easily removed, especially if the impurities are too similar to gold to allow easy separation.  Left over impurities, especially in less than 24-karat gold, can impact the color of the gold.


Gold Bullion:  The Weight

Different Size Gold Bullion Coins, and Bars

Weighing precious metal is done using Troy ounces and Troy pounds.  One Troy ounce is about 31.1 grams.  One thing that causes confusion is a regular ounce is just 28.35 grams.  This means you cannot toss a coin or bullion bar ono a regular scale and simply take a reading.  I have seen precious metal represent in regular ounces on eBay and generate negative feedback.  If a coin s reported to be one weight, and weighs in at another, that is unacceptable,  Also, twelve Troy ounces is a Troy pound, not sixteen.


Most bullion is weighed in Troy ounces, but some pieces like one-gram bars are stated in grams.  The reason this is done is people will buy a one-gram bar, but not a bar less than one-sixtieth of a Troy ounce.  Some things are stated one way to entice sales, masking the real weight.


Aside from small bars, the normal weights of bullion coins are one-twentieth, one-tenth, one-fourth, one-half, one, two, and ten Troy ounce sizes, and the kilogram and even ten kilogram sizes.  Not every bullion coin comes in every possible size.  Gold bullion bars can be found in the one Troy ounce size, as well as the kilogram, five hundred-gram, one hundred-gram, ten-gram, five-gram, and one-gram weights.


These are among the sizes available in some of the popular bullion issues.

Gold Bullion:  What Is Available

Finding the Right Piece of Gold

The first gold coin to become famous in modern times was the South Africa Krugerrand.  It became famous because the gold mines in South Africa were being criticized as exploiting the labor force.  This gave the coins a stigma, and even generated demonstrations where they were being sold.


To compete, other countries soon offered gold coins.  Canada minted the gold Maple Leaf.  New Zealand issued the Kiwi.  The United Kingdom continued its long standing Sovereign.  But, to the dismay of United States coin collectors, the United States issued the American Arts Commemorative Series, starting in 1980.  This series lasted but five years, and there are only five one-ounce and five half-ounce medallions, all minted at West Point.  Collectors found medallions unacceptable.


Many of the gold bullion pieces mentioned below are found at
The Royal Mint Bullion.
Today, the United States mints the American Eagle in a number of sizes, from one-tenth ounce through the one-ounce coin.  Unfortunately, except to American collectors this 22-karat coin is less desirable than the 24-karat competition.  The 24-karat United States coin is the Gold Buffalo, which is only available in proof, not a bullion issue.  The United States does not sell bullion coins directly to the public through its website.


The Royal Mint issues a number of gold coins, including the long standing 22-karat Sovereign, and half Sovereign.  The other gold coins include the Britannia, the Queen’s Beasts, and the Lunar coins.  The sizes are plentiful.  And, there are gold bars stamped RMR, which stands for the well-respected Royal Mint Refinery, in a multitude of sizes, and are recommended for the RMR quality.   There is a special place to order Royal Mint bullion, and the site even handles coins for other mints.

Gold Bullion Bar
Image from The Royal Mint: Gold Bullion Bar


The Austrian Mint issues the Philharmonic.  This coin is well known, but cannot be obtained directly from the mint via online order.


The Canadian Maple Leaf is known for high quality.  The Royal Canadian Mint is a leader in coin quality, and mints the beautiful Maple Leaf coin in a variety of sizes.  However, I is not available online at the Royal Canadian Mint.

The Perth Mint of Australia mints several different gold coins, and produces quite a range of sizes.  In addition, there are gold bars in quite a few sizes.  The gold coins include the Kangaroo and the Lunar issues.  The Kangaroo is not the same Kangaroo series of prior years which was also known as the Nugget, since early issues depicted a gold nugget.  The Perth Mint is known for high quality minting, and their gold is exceptional.  The Perth Mint symbol on a gold bar indicated a quality piece.


The Perth Mint Australia
Perth Mint Gold


The Krugerrand is still available, but the problems that once stigmatized the Krugerrand have gone away.


The Chinese Panda is a beautiful coin, and can be found on the internet easily.  Just make certain the yuan symbol is on the coin.  Counterfeit coins from China are a problem, but counterfeiting Chinese coins is considered serious.  Placement of the yuan symbol is the distinction between a coin and a round, and if it is there the piece has a higher probability of being authentic.


Gold Bullion:  Checking the Coin

Use of the Pen

There is a device one can purchase to check, using conductivity, the metal found in a coin.  If it is not the same as the specification given by the issuing mint, avoid the piece.  The device resembles a pen in appearance.


For more articles on bullion coins look here.


Please visit Black Spaniel Gallery Coins to see out inventory.  Also, we have other informative articles, and will continue to add articles at Black Spaniel Gallery Blog.


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