US Mint to sell platinum coins again on dealer demand

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - The US Mint said it will resume selling its American Eagle platinum bullion coins on March 10, ending a four-year exit from the market, due to renewed interest from investors and dealers.

The US Mint will offer the platinum bullion coins at a 4 per cent premium over the spot price. Only 1-ounce coins will be sold, the Mint told authorized dealers in an email on Tuesday that was seen by Reuters.

Tom Jurkowsky, US Mint's director of corporate communications, told Reuters the Mint notified its authorized purchasers about the platinum coin sales on Tuesday.

The Mint has built up an inventory ahead of the coins going on sale, the email said.

Michael Kramer, president of Manfra, Tordella & Brookes, a major US coin wholesaler in New York, said dealers have already received significant advanced orders following Tuesday's notice.

"We have already sold 1,000 of them without even trying," he said.

The Mint stopped producing platinum bullion coins in 2008 as collectors and retail investors bought fewer coins after prices soared at the start of that year. Interest turned to gold coins as a safe-haven investment later that year at the height of the world economic crisis.

The price of spot platinum skyrocketed to a record high of almost US$2,300 (S$2,918) an ounce in March 2008. It plummeted to US$730 in October 2008, losing slightly more than two-thirds of its value from its peak as the financial crisis sapped demand for the metal mainly used in auto catalytic converters.

The American Eagle platinum coins will compete with lower-premium products such as the Royal Canadian Mint's Platinum Maple Leaf coins, small bar products and coins from other mints, dealers said.

The weight, content and purity of American Eagle gold, silver and platinum coins are guaranteed by the US government.

These coins are approved investment products in Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) in the United States.

Gold's record drop of 28 per cent last year and a better tone in the global economy have rekindled investor interest in platinum over gold, traders said.

Kramer said sales of platinum bars to retail dealers have picked up "quite a bit" in the last two weeks.

Platinum prices have strengthened on better U.S. and Asian auto demand as well as on supply fears caused by mine violence and crippling strikes in top producer South Africa. More than half of the world's annual platinum output is used in auto catalytic converters to clean harmful tailpipe emissions.

In 2013, platinum's prices outperformed gold and silver.

Though the last few months of the year, institutional investors fled bullion as an inflation hedge on expectations that the US.

Federal Reserve would begin tapering its gold-friendly stimulus program.

For 2014 so far, platinum has gained about 8 per cent, compared with gold's rise of 11 per cent and silver's 9 per cent gain.

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