Editor's Note: Prices for many precious and base metals hit record highs in 2010, as economic uncertainty rattled around the globe. What does 2011 hold for gold, silver, platinum, palladium, copper and other metals? Kitco News reporters have prepared a series of stories which examine what is in store for 2011, not only for metals but for currencies, stocks and the overall economy: 2011 Precious Metals Outlook

(Kitco News) - The passage of the American Eagle Palladium Bullion Coin Act could push up investment demand for the metal when newly minted U.S. coins hit the market.

The American Eagle Palladium Bullion Coin Act of 2010 was pushed Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Montana). Palladium bullion for the coins will be mined from natural deposits in the U.S. and this will be the first time the U.S. Mint produces palladium coins.

“The passing of any coin legislation would naturally infer that there is demand for palladium coins as a form of investment – and we have seen that in gold, silver and platinum, where the coin market is an important part of the overall demand picture for those particular metals,” said Will Rhind, head of U.S. operations for ETF Securities, which launched earlier this year the first U.S.-traded physically backed platinum and palladium exchange-traded fund.

So far this year, ETF holdings have grown 75.5% and investor buying has fuelled palladium prices to near a 10-year high of $772 an ounce.

“Now that the public or investor base in the U.S. can actually buy palladium coins, obviously that will add to the demand picture for palladium,” Rhind said.

The act passed in the House on Sept. 29 and then in the Senate on Nov. 30. The U.S. Mint will add palladium to its collection of American Eagle products along with the gold, silver and platinum coins that have been produced for years.

The Mercury dime's 'Winged Liberty' design by A.A. Weinman will be featured on the obverse of the American Eagle palladium coin. The face value of the one-ounce .9995 fine palladium Eagles will be $25, making it the fourth-lowest denominated U.S. bullion coin after the quarter-ounce American Gold Eagle at a $10 face value.

The U.S. Mint told Kitco News it was unable to comment when the coins would be ready for sale, saying it is “premature.”

Jon Nadler, senior metals analyst at Kitco Metals, said the act acknowledges that palladium has gone “mainstream” as a legitimate investment metal.

“On a more basic level it gives the Mint a new source of revenue from the sale of a new coin,” he said. “I do not think it will amount to huge sales figures, but it does broaden the palladium market, which is a good thing.”

Philip Diehl, a former director of the U.S. Mint, recalled what it meant for the mint when a bill to allow the production of platinum coins occurred when he was the Mint’s chief. “That was very definitely part of the attraction for us – enacting the legislation gave us the authority to establish a platinum coin. The Mint was really looking for an opportunity to compete,” he said.

As for the palladium coin, Diehl said: “I think Palladium does a couple of things for the Mint and for palladium as an investment coin – one is it gives the blessing of the U.S. government that palladium is not just industrial metal but an investment metal.

“There is an opportunity here for the industry and the Mint to really inform the public about the price performance of palladium -- which over the month, six months year, has been spectacular,” Diehl said, who now acts as CEO for US Gold Exchange.

Loss of Industrial Demand Spurs Push to Create Coin

Montana is the only source of palladium in the United States, which is mined at two locations by Stillwater Mining. The mine was dealt a blow in 2009 when General Motors decided to stop buying American palladium in favor of metals mined overseas.

Frank McAllister, chief executive officer of Stillwater Mining said in an interview with Kitco News that after GM switched from buying U.S. palladium, U.S. Rep. Rehberg resurrected the palladium coin bill.

“It has nothing to do with the GM issue but everything to do with palladium being the fourth of the precious metals – it is a recognition that that it is something the investing public wants and is buying. To have the US Mint produce a palladium coin is an extraordinary thing – we are proud the metal has achieved this level of prominence,” McAllister said. 

In a statement on his website, Rehberg called it “a good bill for Montana.”

By Daniela Cambone of Kitco News dcambone@kitco.com

2011 Precious Metals Outlook

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