On December 14, 2010, the bill H.R. 6166 was signed into law, which will likely result in a new series of American Palladium Eagles.
The US Mint will be required to mint and issue the one ounce .9995 fine palladium bullion coins, provided that a marketing study demonstrates sufficient demand for the coins exists. The new coins would need to be issued in quantities that the Secretary “may determine to be appropriate to meet demand”, beginning within one year from the submission of the marketing study.
The designs for the American Palladium Eagle would be high relief likenesses of the work of Adolph A. Weinman. The obverse design of the Mercury Dime would be used, paired with his reverse design for the 1907 American Institute of Architects Medal.
Here are the two designs side by side.
Given the problems the US Mint has experienced in recent years meeting demand for gold and silver bullion coins, as well as this year’s problems with issuing the America the Beautiful Silver Bullion Coins, was creating another bullion program a good idea?
The legislation does provide some greater flexibility for the US Mint than past programs. The purity of the coins and the bullion weight are specified, but the diameter and thickness are left to the discretion of the Treasury Secretary. This flexibility may have been provided in response to the challenging diameter originally stipulated for the ATB Silver Bullion Coins, which led to early production problems
The legislation states that the Secretary of the Treasury shall acquire the palladium used for the coins through the purchase of palladium mined from natural deposits in the United States within one year after the month in which it was mined. However, the palladium may be sourced from other available sources if this is not feasible or if no such palladium exists. This allowance may have been provided in response to the challenges the US Mint has encountered sourcing gold and silver under the requirements sets for other programs.
On the other hand, the collector versions of the Palladium Eagles carry some very specific requirements. For some other bullion programs, specific authorization or requirements for numismatic versions are not included, but rather these coins are struck on the Treasury Secretary’s general authority to create numismatic items.
For the Palladium Eagles, both proof and uncirculated versions are are specifically authorized. It is also included that to the greatest extent possible the “surface treatment” of each year’s proof or uncirculated version must differ in some material way from the preceding year. Based on this requirement, there would be an alternating or possibly ever-changing appearance for the collector series.
At this point, it’s not clear how the US Mint might handle this requirement in practice. Will the coins alternate in proof and reverse proof? Would different background effects be used? (The Perth Mint has used frosted or shimmer backgrounds for Silver Koalas.) Would uncirculated coins be brilliant or satin? Gilded or colorized?
Finally, there are some odd requirements for the US Mint facilities to be used in striking the Palladium Eagles. For bullion and uncirculated coins, any facility other than West Point may be used. While for proof coins, only the West Point Mint must be used.