Gold coins are one of the more popular ways that investors purchase bullion. Part of their popularity stems from the fact that the coins themselves may appreciate to the point that they are more valuable than the gold out of which they’re made. If you’ve checked the metals markets lately, you know full well how much money that would be, when you consider how much money an ounce of gold can command on the market. Gold, however, is not a great metal for making coins on its own. This is due to several aspects of the metal that are actually advantageous in most other applications.
Gold is incredibly malleable. This means that a very small amount of gold can be pounded into very thin sheets or wires. In fact, this is one of gold’s most important properties where industrial usage is concerned. Where making coins is concerned, however, malleability is something of a disadvantage. If you remember the old cartoons where characters bit into a coin to verify that it was real, now you know why. If you did that to a pure gold coin, you’d likely leave an impression of your teeth in the metal, which was how the layperson verified their currency as genuine.
Today, however, treasuries and bullion producers verify their gold as genuine by maker’s marks, holograms and the ornate designs on the coinage. This would not be possible—the details would be worn off quickly on a soft, pure gold coin—without one of the oldest technologies in metallurgy: alloying metal. This process combines one metal with another and, when it’s done correctly and in the right proportions, the resulting item gets the benefits of all the metals used in its manufacture. Gold coins are alloyed and, oftentimes, it makes them even more beautiful, in addition to making them more durable.
Gold coins are oftentimes alloyed with silver and copper. These metals impart a unique tint to the cold, giving it a red, green or yellow hue, depending upon how the metals are mixed. The metal known as “white gold” is actually a mix of palladium or silver and gold. This metal is usually seen more in jewelry than it is in coin making. The alloying process, however, allows coin makers to make beautiful products that will stand the test of time. The amounts of other metals used are generally very minimal.