U.S. Gold Coins
US gold coins are some of the best ways to own gold. They are available in a variety of types and offer a wide array of benefits.
The first thing to understand is that there are two broad categories of U.S. gold coins: Gold bullion coins and Numismatic gold coins.
Gold Bullion Coins
Gold bullion coins are coins which are bought and held strictly for their gold content. There are just two U.S. gold bullion coins in the United States: the American Eagle Gold Bullion Coin and the American Buffalo Gold Bullion Coin.
The Gold American Eagle began production back in 1986 and is available in 4 sizes: 1 ounce, ½ ounce, ¼ ounce and 1/10 ounce. There is literally a Gold American Eagle to fit just about any budget.
The Gold American Eagle contains pure gold, plus added alloy metals to provide hardness, reduce the effects of wear and tear and contribute to the longevity of each individual coin.
The Gold American Eagle is the best-selling gold bullion coin in the world, outpacing the Krugerrand, the Panda, the Maple Leaf, the Kangaroo and other world gold bullion coins on the market.
In 2006, the U.S. Mint introduced the Gold American Buffalo. The design of this new coin was inspired by the Buffalo Nickel, which was minted from 1913 until 1938. The feature that the Buffalo offers that is different from the Eagle is the fact that its gold content is more pure, without the hardening alloys. This is in line with most foreign gold bullion coins, such as the Gold Canadian Maple Leaf, the Austrian Vienna Philharmonic and the Australian Kangaroo. However, unlike the Gold American Eagle, the Gold Buffalo is not available in a variety of sizes, just the popular one ounce size.
Gold bullion coins are not scarce, so they are not of interest to collectors.
The second type of U.S. gold coin category is numismatic gold coinage.
Numismatic Gold Coins
Numismatic gold coins offer the intrinsic security of their gold content, plus the added benefit of their rarity. In fact, numismatic gold coins are most commonly referred to as rare U.S. gold coins.
Rare U.S. gold coins are coins minted from 1795 to 1933, the period in which the U.S. Mint produced gold coinage for circulation.
Today, there are two main types of rare U.S. gold coins of interest to collectors and investors: Mint State gold coins and Proof gold coins.
Mint State Gold
Mint State gold coins are gold coins which were originally minted with the intention of circulating in commerce. However, these coins did not in fact circulate. They remain in original mint condition (thus the term "mint state"), with graded Mint State (MS) 60 through 69 on the American Numismatic Association’s numerical scale.
The overwhelming majority of the rare U.S. gold coins on the market today fall into this category.
Proof Gold coinage is generally, with a few notable exceptions, made up of coins of the same design types as the Mint State gold coins. However, there are key differences.
Unlike Mint State coins, Proof coins were never intended to circulate. They were prepared and manufactured using careful, painstaking techniques to produce exquisite coins. Unlike Mint State gold coins, which were minted on high speed coin presses in large numbers, Proof coins were minted in a slow, careful process, often being struck multiple times using highly polished "planchets." As a result, Proof Gold coins were literally rare the day they left the Mint.
Proof gold coins boast some of the most breathtaking examples in the world. They are often pristine, with mirrored fields "you could shave in."
Because rare U.S. gold coins offer both the security of their gold content and the added attraction of their scarcity, they are generally regarded as better coins to own than gold bullion coins.