Five months after the U.S. Mint began producing coins made with platinum, sales have all but collapsed as investors continue to favor gold and silver.
“It’s not considered a currency,” said Jason Carstensen, a medical-sales representative in Ventura, California, who spends about $2,000 a month on coins. Gold and silver have value as hedges against a devaluation of the dollar, while platinum is viewed as an industrial commodity, he said.
The Mint, which resumed production of platinum coins in March after a six-year halt, has sold 13,600 ounces this year, including zero in July. By comparison, the Mint sold 313,500 ounces of gold coins and 27.71 million ounces of silver, fueled by concern that the Federal Reserve is inflating the economy with paper money to stimulate growth.
Gold and silver have been treasured by kings and merchants for millennia, and the metals are still popular today among retail investors who hold precious metals as a store of value. Platinum is even rarer and wasn’t widely known until the 18th century, according to Johnson Matthey Plc, the biggest buyer. Now, it’s used mostly in catalytic converters to reduce auto emissions.
“Platinum has been around for some time, but I would think of it more as an industrial metal,” said Timothy Green, 78, an industry historian and consultant whose first book, “The World of Gold,” was published in 1968. “Gold, on the other hand, has been associated with every old civilization. It is in a class of its own.”
The U.S. Mint figured the tide had turned back in favor of the metal when it reintroduced the coins in March, after halting production in 2008 as demand slumped. In that first month, it sold 10,000 ounces. Since then, demand has all but disappeared.
“It has been a flop,” said Michael Kramer, who has been selling coins for 37 years and is the president of New York- based MTB Inc., a dealer authorized to purchase directly from the Mint.
A one-ounce American Eagle gold coin fetched $1,332.25 as of Aug. 19, up 7 percent this year, while platinum coins sold for $1,443.14, up 0.3 percent, Mint data show. Silver American Eagle coins were at $21.44, down 4.2 percent. Over the same period, the Bloomberg Commodity Index of 22 raw materials fell 0.4 percent, while the MSCI All-Country World Index of equities rose 4.9 percent and the Bloomberg’s Treasury Bond Index gained 4.1 percent.
Gold for December delivery was at $1,276.80 an ounce on the Comex in New York today. Silver for December delivery was at $19.415 an ounce, while platinum for October delivery was at $1,419.40 an ounce.