Palladium and platinum are two of nine metallic chemical elements considered "precious" for their rarity and high economic value. Like all the other precious metals, palladium and platinum have various industrial uses. But apart from these, both are also regarded as investment commodities.

Palladium as an investment commodity:

Palladium is valued at around US$415 per troy ounce. Actually, this is much lower than its price of more than one thousand U.S. dollars per troy ounce in early 2001, when the automobile industry placed a high demand for the precious metal for use as catalytic converters.

As an investment commodity, palladium may be bought in forms of bullion coins or bars. Palladium bullion coins are internationally recognized forms of currency and have the ISO codes XPD and 964. The first known palladium coins to be issued were those of Sierra Leone in 1966. The following year, Tonga started issuing theirs.

Other countries later began issuing their own palladium bullion coins, including Canada (with its Big & Little Bear Constellations and the very popular Palladium Maple Leaf), Australia, France, China, Portugal, and the former Soviet Union. The latter, in fact, is known to have minted the most number of palladium coins in the world.

Because of low circulation of palladium coins, palladium as an investment commodity is not as good as either silver or gold. Another reason for this is the relatively wider spread between the metal's buying and selling prices.

Palladium is traded on the London Stock Exchange as an exchange-traded fund (ETF), under the ticker symbol LSE: PHPD.

Platinum as an investment commodity:

As of January 2010, platinum is valued at around us$1,555 per troy ounce (a couple years earlier, its price is about 48% higher than this - considered its peak price). Compared with silver or gold, platinum tends to trade at a higher per-unit price because it is scarcer and has lower mine output. The average mine production of platinum is 5 million troy ounces per year. This is lower by about 77 million troy ounces when compared with the annual mine production of gold, and even much lower - by about 547 million troy ounces - when compared with the yearly silver mine production.

Platinum is traded on the London Stock Exchange (as ETF, under the ticker symbol LSE: PHPT) and on the New York Mercantile Exchange. One way of investing in platinum is through platinum ingots. Platinum ingots are first assayed and hallmarked before being sold on commodity markets.

Another way of investing in platinum is through platinum coins. Platinum coins are internationally recognized forms of currency and have the ISO code XPT. However, there are only a few varieties of platinum coins minted, largely because of the cost of platinum and of the difficulty in working with it.

Bullion coins minted from platinum include the Manx Noble (minted from 1983 to 1989), the Canadian Platinum Maple Leaf (1988 to 1999), the Australian Platinum Koala (1988 to the present), the Mexican Libertad (1989 only), and the American Platinum Eagle (1997 to the present). The Chinese Platinum Panda were minted in three periods: from 1988 to 1990, 1993 to 1997, and lastly from 2002 to 2005.

Platinum accounts are offered by most banks in Switzerland. Here, platinum is treated like any other foreign currency; that is, it can be bought or sold instantly. However, bank clients are not entitled to ownership of the physical metal. Instead, they have a claim against their banks for a specified quantity of the metal.

 

Bullion coins are coins made from precious metals. Their market values are determined by their inherent precious metal contents. As such bullion coins are mainly kept as investments or stores of value.

Most of the bullion coins available are made from silver or gold. A few also come in platinum though, including the American Platinum Eagle, the Canadian Platinum Maple Leaf, the Australian Platinum Koala, and the Manx Noble. Here's a quick rundown of each of these four platinum bullion coins:

The American Platinum Eagle:

The American Platinum Eagle bullion coins were first minted and released in 1997 by the United States Mint. They are offered in four varieties:

1. 1/10 ounce (oz.) coin - With a face value of USD10, 3.112 grams (g) in weight, 0.95 millimeters (mm) thick, and 16.5 mm in diameter.

2. 1/4 oz. coin - With a face value of USD25, 7.78 g in weight, 1.32 mm thick, and 22 mm in diameter.

3. 1/2 oz. coin - With a face value of USD50, 15.56 g in weight, 1.75 mm thick, and 27 mm in diameter.

4. 1 oz. coin - With a face value of USD100, 31.12 g in weight, 2.39 mm thick, and 32.7 mm in diameter.

All coin varieties consist of 0.9995 fine platinum. One interesting feature of the American Platinum Eagle coin is that its reverse design changes every year.

The Canadian Platinum Maple Leaf:

The Canadian Platinum Maple Leaf bullion coins were issued from 1988 until 2002 by the Royal Canadian Mint (RCM). They were offered in four varieties: 1/10 oz. coin (with a face value (FV) of CD5), 1/4 oz. coin (FV: CD10), 1/2 oz. coin (FV: CD20), and 1 oz. coin (FV: CD50).

Two additional varieties, 1/20 oz. coin (FV: CD1) and 1/15 oz. coin (FV: CD2), were issued by RCM, but only in 1994. In 2009, the 1 oz. coin was reintroduced. All coins, which have legal tender status in Canada, consist of 0.9995 pure platinum.

The Australian Platinum Koala:

The Australian Platinum Koala bullion coins were first released in 1988 by the Perth Mint, the oldest currently operating mint in Australia. The coin comes in 1 oz. variety, with a face value of AD100. As with most other bullion coins, this value is much lower than the coin's bullion value.

On the coin's obverse is a koala, in sunken relief (i.e., lowered from the coin's plane); on the reverse is Queen Elizabeth II. The coin has legal tender status in Australia.

The Manx Noble:

The Manx Noble platinum bullion coins were minted from 1983 to 1989 by the Pobjoy Mint, the leading private mint in Europe. The coins were offered in five varieties:

1. 1/20 oz. coin - With 1.555 g platinum content, 1.556 g in weight, and 13.9 mm in diameter.

2. 1/10 ounce coin - With 3.11 g platinum content, 3.112 g in weight, and 16.5 mm in diameter.

3. 1/4 ounce coin - With 7.776 g platinum content, 7.78 g in weight, and 22 mm in diameter.

4. 1/2 ounce coin - With 15.552 g platinum content, 15.6 g in weight, and 27 mm in diameter.

5. 1 ounce coin - With 31.103 g platinum content, 31.119 g in weight, and 32.7 mm in diameter.

The coins have no currency value. Their value, rather, is equal to their respective platinum contents. All coins consist of 0.9995 pure platinum.

On the coin's obverse is Queen Elizabeth II, along with these texts: "ISLE OF MAN" and "ELIZABETH II". On the reverse are a Viking ship, the denomination, platinum content, and the words "Platinum fine".