U.S. offers nearly pure gold coin

U.S. offers nearly pure gold coin

A new U.S. gold coin, the purest ever made, was to go on sale Monday to investors worldwide.

The $50 coin, known as the American Buffalo, revives a popular design first used on 5-cent pieces in 1913. One side portrays a native American and the other a bison standing on a grassy mound.

Slightly larger and thicker than a half-dollar and weighing 1 ounce, or 28 grams, the new coin will be 99.99 percent pure and is inscribed “.9999 fine gold.”

Since the United States began minting gold coins in the 1790s, their standard fineness has always been about 90 percent pure gold, mixed with copper and sometimes silver to give coins the hardness to withstand circulation.

The 24-karat bullion coin was authorized last year by Congress in an effort to compete with similar coins made by Canada, South Africa and other countries. Investors and collectors alike generally prefer the greater purity. Because gold coins have not circulated in the United States since 1933, hardness is no longer an issue.

“There is a demand for 24-karat gold bullion coins among the American public,” said David Lebryk, the deputy director of the U.S. Mint, adding that foreign 24-karat gold coins were a growing segment of the American market.

The American Buffalo will be minted at West Point, New York, and sold through dealers at a price based on the daily spot price of gold, with a markup of about 12 percent, according to Becky Bailey, a spokeswoman at the Mint. The spot price of an ounce of gold in New York closed Friday at $578.40.

A high-relief, mirror-finish version known as a proof will also be made for sale to collectors. Quantities of the regular coin will be determined by demand; 300,000 of the proof version will be minted in 2006 and sold initially at a price of $875.

“I think collectors will embrace this coin. I don’t think the Mint will have any trouble selling out,” Jeff Garrett, president of the Professional Numismatists Guild, a nonprofit U.S. group, said Friday.

The design of the buffalo nickel was also revived for a limited-run silver dollar coin in 2001.

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