Palladium Bullion Coins

Sadly, a favorite metal has lost significant value over the last couple of weeks. Palladium achieved a high point of $859 within the last 30 days but has fallen below $700 with the economic uncertainty generated by the recent man-made and natural disasters.

Though it has many uses, palladium plays a role in today’s vehicle manufacturing. With the turmoil in the automotive industry’s ability to sell new vehicles and with plants shutting down in Japan, even temporarily, palladium’s value fell dramatically.

But, did you know that the 111th Congress formed a bill to make a new American Eagle Palladium Bullion Coin? It passed in the House on September 29, in the Senate on November 30, and was approved on December 14 to become Public Law 111-303. It states, “An Act to authorize the production of palladium bullion coins to provide affordable opportunities for investments in precious metals, and for other purposes.”

Further, the law describes the design of the coin as:

‘‘(6) DESIGN.—Coins minted and issued under this subsection shall bear designs on the obverse and reverse that are close likenesses of the work of famed American coin designer and medallic artist Adolph Alexander Weinman—

‘‘(A) the obverse shall bear a high-relief likeness of the ‘Winged Liberty’ design used on the obverse of the so-called ‘Mercury dime’;

‘‘(B) the reverse shall bear a high-relief version of the reverse design of the 1907 American Institute of Architects medal; and

‘‘(C) the coin shall bear such other inscriptions, including ‘Liberty’, ‘In God We Trust’, ‘United States of America’, the denomination and weight of the coin and the fineness of the metal, as the Secretary determines to be appropriate and in keeping with the original design.

Most of us are familiar with the “Winged Liberty” dime otherwise known as a “Mercury” dime. In his correspondence to the Mint in 1916, Mr. Weinman described his obverse design, “The design of the dime, owing to the smallness of the coin, has been held quite simple. The obverse shows a head of liberty with winged cap. The head is firm and simple in form, the profile forceful.”

See frame #484:  Adolph A. Weinman papers, 1890-1959. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

This lustrous MS-65 1939D shows the strength and artistry of the Winged Liberty profile among the shine on the surface:

1939D MS-65 Mercury Dime obverse

As a side note, it’s interesting to look at comments from when the Winged Liberty dime was released. In the news reports and commentary, several claimed that the left facing portrait is the “correct” one. They commented that a right facing portrait shows weakness.  

As for the reverse of the palladium coin, since millions of the architect medals were not made for circulation, information is more difficult to find. When he completed the American Institute of Architect’s medal in 1907, Mr. Weinman did not keep as many of his papers, but two letters can be found.

The first, dated January 25, 1907, came from the American Institute of Architects and included the following:

“It gives me pleasure to send you the following resolution, which was adopted by the Board of Directors of the American Institute of Architects, January 5th, 1907.

“WHEREAS, Mr. Adolph A. Weinman, has greatly contributed to the success of the 50th anniversary of the American Institute of Architects, by designing and executing for the permanent use of the Institute, a medal of great beauty and high interest, and to do this put aside many pressing engagements, now therefor be it,

“RESOLVED, that the Board of Directors of the American Institute of Architects tenders to Mr. Weinman, its most hearty thanks for the service thus performed.”

See frame #597: Adolph A. Weinman papers, 1890-1959. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

 Similarly, on page 35 of the American Architect and Architecture, Volumes 91 and 92, from 1907, the American Institute of Architects commented about the new medal:


“The Board reports that, acting in accordance with the wishes of the Institute, it has taken the important step of establishing in the name of the Institute a Gold Medal for distinguished achievement in architecture, and has made the award of the medal to Sir Aston Webb, R.A. It is a fortunate circumstance that the medal may first be conferred upon the fiftieth anniversary of the foundation of the Institute. The medal has been executed, under the advice of Mr. C. F. McKim and Mr. Geo. B. Post, with admirable skill and with the highest beauty by Mr. Adolph A. Weinman. It is worth of the best traditions of the art.”

The second letter in Mr. Weinman’s papers came from Mr. McKim and included his appreciation,

“I have just received the facsimile of the beautiful medal which you designed for the Institute, and which more and more fills me with pleasure. I feel nearly as proud of it as Sir Aston Webb does of the original.

It is a pure work of art, worthy of the aim of the Institute, and reflects the greatest credit upon you skill as an artist. I am proud of it, and particularly proud that we have a man in our country capable of producing so serious a work. You have my heartiest congratulations and best wishes.

I expect to go to Washington tomorrow, and will carry it with me, for the purpose of showing it to the President, as well as to the Secretaries of State and War.

See frame #598:  Adolph A. Weinman papers, 1890-1959. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

From 1919, in the Magazine of Art Volume 10, a picture of the American Institute of Architects medal can be found on page 273:Adolph A. Weinman Medal for American Institute of Architects

The eagle on the medal’s reverse will make a beautiful reverse for the palladium coin.

Now then, when will the Mint offer these coins? Even though they placed the Coin Modernization Act (Public Law 111-302), approved on the same day as the American Eagle Palladium Bullion Coin Act of 2010, on their web site’s legislation page, they have not added Public Law 111-303 as of today, March 16, 2011 . Plus, if you select the Mint’s “Shop Online” and search for “palladium,” their search engine apologizes when it cannot find any resulting coin products.

Are they watching the metal prices? Are they working on the dies for the coin? The new coins should be interesting.