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Bullion Bars, Rounds or Coins? A Guide to Making the Right Choice for You

Published on 1/26/2022 by APMEX

A variety of Silver and Gold bullion against an orange background

Should I Buy Bullion Coins, Rounds or Bars?

Bullion can be purchased in three different forms: coins, rounds and bars. Making the right choice for your investment portfolio is easy when you know the differences between the three available product types and which may be a better fit for you.

Bullion Coins

Governments worldwide produce Goldand Silver bullion coins every year, which are issued as official legal tender meant to represent a currency. The issuing government guarantees the weight and purity of bullion coins, which also backs the coin's nominal value. In other words, you can trade your bullion coin for its equivalent in cash with little difficulty – if not immediately, then certainly over time.

Many bullion coins contain an actual face value, but that's not what determines their value. Rather, bullion coins are priced according to the spot price of Gold, Silver, Platinum or Palladium and the premium above that. The per-ounce value of bullion coins is typically higher than bullion rounds and bars because their mintage process requires a more rigorous production process. Bullion coins often include security features such as micro-engraved radial lines and color-shifting ink.

Due to the government institutions issuing these coins, some investors have a greater sense of trust in the authenticity and are willing to pay a bit more than the current spot price of the metals. Although not technically intended for circulation, Silver and Gold bullion coins are stamped with a monetary amount by the issuing country. They are guaranteed to retain that value at the country's central bank, even if the Precious Metal content loses value, which causes bullion coins to feel like the safe choice.

Bullion Rounds

Designed to replicate the look and feel of government-issued coins, Gold and Silver bullion rounds are minted by private companies and carry no face value. While they look a lot like currency, these round bullion pieces are not meant for circulation. They are typically the most affordable way to get started in Precious Metals collecting because their value is derived exclusively from the content of the Gold, Silver, Platinum or Palladium contained within them. The worth of a bullion round is determined solely by the "melt value" of the Precious Metal.

Bullion Coins vs. Bullion Rounds: Some Things to Consider

If you are new to bullion investing, knowing when to buy coins vs. rounds can be tricky. While bullion is all the same in the bullion market's eyes, coins are typically more valuable because they are made by world governments that control Precious Metals supplies. The fact that rounds come from private mints means rounds carry only the value of Gold, Silver, Platinum or Palladium, plus any numismatic value.

If you are trying to decide between bullion coins and rounds for your collection or portfolio, here is a direct comparison of the two to help with your purchasing decisions:

Mints

A significant difference between coins and rounds is who does the minting and manufacturing. Bullion coins typically are minted by sovereign mints, featuring a government-backed denomination. For example, all United States Gold and Silver coinage is minted by the U.S. Mint, while most other countries either have a branch of their government's mint or a contract with an independent refinery to produce their bullion.

Bullion rounds, on the other hand, are produced by private mints. Depending on production capacity, private refineries can be either "minor" or "major" in scale. Depending on where you live, this could make a difference in buying your bullion products in person. While the U.S. Mint has branches throughout the country, many private refineries are only located in major cities, like San Francisco or New York City.

Pricing

Another big difference between government-issued coins and bullion rounds is the price. While the price of bullion can fluctuate, bullion rounds usually cost less money overall than a coin. The reason for this is the difference in how each coin or round is produced. Coins are struck from raw metal blanks and go through at least one stamping stage before the design is complete. Bullion rounds, on the other hand, are not struck with a hammer or die. Instead, they are stamped with a machine to create the design.

Because rounds are not struck with a coin press, much less energy is required to produce them, resulting in lower overhead costs for refineries. As a result, bullion coins cost more money simply because it takes more effort and materials to make them - the same reason why a cup of coffee at a three-star cafe downtown costs more than the same type and brand of coffee at your local Dunkin' Donuts.

Finishes

Bullion rounds also have a different look to them than coins. Bullion rounds are struck by a machine, which tends to give the round very recognizable edges. In contrast, coins will usually feature varying degrees of "reeded" or smooth edges that give them their unique look.

Size & Diameter

The most recognizable difference between bullion coins and rounds is size. While different from manufacturer to manufacturer, coin weights can range from four ounces up to five ounces, whereas bullion rounds generally weigh less than one ounce.

The diameter of bullion rounds can also vary depending on who makes them, but most fall within the one-half inch range. Coins, on the other hand, are produced to strict government standards. They must meet specific diameter requirements so the coin can be used within the world of commerce without issue. Because coins are subject to different controls than bullion rounds, you will not see bullion rounds with the same diameter as coins or even close to it.

Rounds vs. Coins: The Final Word

The main difference between bullion coins and rounds is in how they are produced. While both can be an excellent investment, their design, rarity and production processes will vary depending on who produces them. For this reason, it is essential to understand what sets each apart from the other before you buy so you can make an informed decision about which type is best for your needs.


Bullion Bars

Bars of Gold are what many people imagine when they hear the word "bullion." Bullion bars are a great option for someone who wishes to have a collection or portfolio with diversity from the typical coin or round. Bars are strikingly attractive objects, recalling scenes from countless movies and legends. Available in many shapes and sizes, a bullion bar can be struck by both private and public institutions, so a solid knowledge of Precious Metals investing is vital before you make a purchase.

Gold and Silver bars are typically produced in mass quantities to attain the lowest premium possible over the Precious Metal content. Bullion bars are valued almost exclusively for the melt value of their content, although some people will pay a slight premium if a trusted government authority produces the bar. Privately minted bullion bars traditionally offer the best price-per-ounce to purchasers.

Most bullion bars are poured into molds, usually with a machine. The bullion is then left to cool until solid before being removed from the mold. The bullion bar is then milled, creating the recessed field that makes bullion bars with lettering or other designs. Finally, the bullion bar undergoes one or more planchet finishing processes to create the bullion round you see before you today.

Bullion bars have no face value and contain minimal premiums beyond the current spot price of Gold, Silver, Platinum or Palladium. Bullion bars often ship in simple plastic bags or rolls because bullion bar makers do not typically pack their products in protective packaging. Like bullion rounds, bullion bars offer investors a more affordable way to purchase Precious Metals.

If you are still torn between bullion bars vs. bullion coins or rounds, consider what you are hoping to accomplish by owning bullion. If your goal is diversification from the U.S. dollar, then bullion coins or rounds likely make better sense. Suppose your goal is easy storage, high Precious Metal content or building up your collection quickly. In that case, bullion bars may be perfect for obtaining high-quality Gold and Silver in fewer purchases.

Making the Right Choice for You

Still not sure about whether to purchase bullion coins, rounds or bars? Ideally, owning bullion should be part of a comprehensive investment strategy, including diversifying your bullion holdings among various Precious Metal weights and products. The best path forward depends on factors such as how long you plan to be an investor, how much bullion you're planning to own and your tolerance for market volatility. In the end, owning Precious Metals is a great hedge against uncertainty in the markets today and any addition – whether coin, round, or bar – is a great jumpstart to a lifelong investment.

Bullion coins, rounds and bars make for great investment opportunities; for any questions regarding the eligibility of any specific products in your investment portfolios, APMEX recommends consulting a financial advisor or professional.

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