The America the Beautiful Quarters Program will feature 56 newly designed quarters for issue between 2010 to 2021. These commemorative coins will not launch by themselves, however. The law authorizing the series (Public Law 110-456) also mandates silver versions that are "exact duplicates of the quarter dollars issued."
Under the America the Beautiful Silver Bullion Coin Program, the United States Mint strikes .999 fine silver coins with an enormous diameter of 3 inches and a weight of 5 ounces. The size of the coins are quite distinct, and are a first time event for the Mint. In the past, coins have included a single ounce of silver and were much smaller. As a comparison, they are nearly double the size — in width and thickness — of the American Eagle Silver coin, which is 1.598 inches in diameter, and they are twice that of early US coinage, like the Morgan and Peace silver dollars.
Aside from the size variation, the bullion coins are also different than their circulating quarter counterparts in that their edges are incused with the fineness and weight.
For silver coin collectors and investors, this new program looks to have both its pros and cons. The thought of a supersized US coin can certainly be daunting. Some seasoned numismatists are less than thrilled with the new program. Numismatic News Editor Dave Harper summed up the feeling of many coin collectors in an article entitled New U.S. bullion coins; who cares?
"I think the whole thing makes a joke of American coinage, but then the solons in Congress thought otherwise and tucked the provision into the quarter bill. Will bullion investors flock to it? Why would they do so? The American Eagle is so much more widely traded and recognizable."
On the flip side, the series may open up new avenues for investors and bring the hobby news collector. How will the younger generation feel toward the bullion coins? That is key. Only time will tell.
Collectors or investors will certainly have to think of the size aspects of the coins, and the cost to purchase all 56. At 5 ounces per, all 56 coins would weigh 280 troy ounces, which is 19.2 lbs. Assuming that each could be purchased for $100, the total cost would be $5,600.
America the Beautiful Silver Bullion Coin Releases and Availability
The silver bullion coins will be issued no sooner than the first of each year, and available for sale only during the year in which its companion circulating quarter dollar is issued.
The US Mint sells bullion coins for a small amount over the current spot price of the precious metal within them, but only to their network of authorized purchasers — not directly to the public. The authorized purchasers in turn resell to coin dealers, precious metal providers and/or directly to the public. (The only other silver bullion coin sold by the US Mint is the American Silver eagle, which was first issued in 1986 and has had the same design ever since.)
Public Law 110-456 specifies that in addition to the standard distribution process used by the US Mint, the National Park Service (NPS) may purchase quantities of America the Beautiful 5 oz Silver Bullion Coins (no fewer than 1,000 at a time) and may resell and repackage them as the Director of the NPS deems appropriate.