Maple Leafs Get New Packaging
Bill HaynesGold Maple Leafs and Silver Maple Leafs are receiving packaging makeovers, changes clearly mandated by investor disfavor with packaging that the Royal Canadian Mint has used since the coins were introduced. Gold Maple Leafs debuted in 1979, Silver Maple Leafs in 1988. The changes appear to be good moves, which should increase sales of Silver Maple Leafs and help keep Gold Maple Leafs the preferred pure (.9999 fine) gold bullion coins.
Since inception, 1-oz Gold Maple Leafs have been packaged ten to a tube. Because Maple Leafs are 24-karat, pure gold, they are "soft," relative to alloyed gold coins, such as American Gold Eagles and Krugerrands. Further, because of the design of the coins and the tight-fitting tubes, it is difficult to remove, inspect, and reinsert 1-oz Gold Maple Leafs in their tubes without scratching the coins.
Actually, reinserting Gold Maple Leafs without at least some scratching is nearly impossible. Further, if the persons inspecting the coins do not know how easily the Gold Maple Leafs are damaged, needless damage often occurs while the coins are out their tubes.
Gold Maple Leafs carry the image of Queen Elizabeth II on the front, with a flat, clear field alongside the image. The backs have the outline of a maple leaf, hence the coins' names. The problem arises from the coins' really sharp milled (reeded) edges. When the coins are reinserted in their tubes, the milled edges often scratch the fields.
Then there is the problem with investors who like to "heft" their coins "to get a feel of them." If they put four or five Gold Maple Leafs in the palms of their hands and "clang" them, the damage can be quite severe. Should a Gold Maple Leaf be dropped, rim damage is almost guaranteed.
As Gold Maple Leafs have been sold into the secondary market, damaged coins have become such a problem that Gold Maple Leafs have lost popularity with investors. The problem has become so widespread that many wholesalers bid only "melt" for Gold Maple Leafs, regardless of their condition. By paying only "melt," wholesalers can profitably resell the coins for industrial or jewelry purposes if no buyers are found for the coins.
Gold Maple Leafs, like the Gold Eagles and the Krugerrands, are bullion coins, which trade for the value of their gold content, plus small premiums. Damaged Gold Maple Leafs do not mean a loss of gold; they contain an ounce of gold regardless of the scratching or rim nicks. Still, buyers do not like to receive damaged coins. This means that Gold Maple Leafs sold into the secondary market have to be evaluated for the degree of damage.
Some wholesalers refuse to take the time to individually inspect Gold Maple Leafs and separate them according to their condition. These are the wholesalers who generally will pay only "melt" for 1-oz Gold Maple Leafs, regardless of condition. Fortunately, the free market being what it is, there are still some wholesalers who will buy according to condition.
Yet the handwriting is on the wall: 1-oz Gold Maple Leafs in tubes will continue to lose popularity and probably will join Krugerrands, Mexican 50 Pesos, and Austrian 100 Coronas as basic bullion coins, which carry the smallest premiums in the bullion coin market. Still, the packaging makeover should fillip sales of new Gold Maple Leafs.
With the new packaging, each 1-oz Gold Maple Leaf will be encapsulated in plastic and suspended in the middle of a plastic card, somewhat as 1-oz gold bars are packaged. However, the plastic protecting the Gold Maple Leafs will be heavier and more durable than the plastic used with 1-oz gold bars. The new packaging should keep the coins from being easily damaged.
With the new packaging, the Royal Canadian Mint made another big change: 1-oz Gold Maple Leafs will now come 25 to a box, whereas the old packaging is ten to a tube. This change could further increase sales as 20 coins are common ordering units for gold bullion coins, because the world's most popular gold bullion coins-American Gold Eagles-come 20 to a tube. As a result of the change, investors wanting "complete original packaging" will move up to 25 ounces.
However, orders for small quantities mean the coins will have to be removed from their mint boxes-but still individually encapsulated-and put in other containers. The new packaging also will require more storage space for Gold Maple Leafs than for 1-oz gold coins that come in tubes.
Although 1-oz Gold Maple Leafs will be a little more cumbersome to handle, a large segment of the gold coin bullion market prefers pure gold coins. Gold Maple Leafs have long been the most popular 1-oz pure (.9999 fine or 24-karat) gold bullion coins on the market, and the new packaging should keep Gold Maple Leafs as the preferred 24-karat gold bullion coins. (The market for pure gold bullion coins is estimated to $2.4 billion annually.) The new packaging is expected to debut sometime in August.
New packaging for 1-oz Silver Maple Leafs has already been introduced. However, Silver Maple Leafs in their old packaging are still available. Since Silver Maple Leafs were introduced in 1988, they have been packaged twenty coins to a sheet, 200 coins in a box. Each coin was individually enclosed in plastic. The new packaging will be similar to the U.S. Mint's Silver Eagles packaging.
Silver Maple Leafs will now come 20 to a tube, 25 tubes to a container, and 500 coins to a "mint box." The new box will be made of durable heavy plastic, whereas the boxes of 200 are cardboard. The new packaging should make Silver Maple Leafs more competitive with American Silver Eagles, presently the most popular 1-oz modern silver bullion coins being sold.
July 19, 2005
Bill Haynes has been a precious metals dealer since 1973. Email him at bill@CMigs.com. View CMigs' website at www.cmi-gold-silver.com
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