What is the difference between bullion and Numismatics?

What is the difference between bullion and Numismatics? 

We see these concepts get mixed up and interchanged all the time.  Sometimes because of ignorance, and sometimes just to make something sound better.  But whatever the reason, its best to spend a few minutes and read below.

To make matters even more confusing there is actually 3 categories.  They are:

  • Bullion
  • Semi-Numismatic
  • Numismatic

So what are they and how can tell them apart?  We recently had to define these things as part of an overall market appraisal, and thought we had done such a good job we would share them here…  

Bullion:  Is a product that represents the value of only the precious metal in the product.  These products tend to trade at 98% to 108% over the metals’ intrinsic value and operate at the lowest margins of the three types of products.   For example.  On 11/20/2023, at 10:50 AM I could buy from Heritage Gold Department a 2023 BU Gold Maple Leaf for 1.7% over melt, or I can sell them to Heritage for 1.25%.  It is important to note that the premium from purchase to the subsequent sale does not change that much.   These products can be demonstrated as being sold for these margins on any open market such as eBay.   The value of a bullion product is determined entirely by its precious metal content and demand.     It is said to have a High Correlation to precious metals value and thus is volatile to everyday changes in the price of Gold.    

Semi-Numismatic:  For an item to be considered Semi-Numismatic it must be issued by a sovereign government mint, contain a denomination, and is actually MONITIZED by the government body.  While some Semi-Numismatic items do in fact trade at bullion rates and margins, and can be considered bullion, no bullion products can ever be Semi-numismatic.  Semi-Numismatic products tend to sell for a higher premium than bullion or anywhere from 109% to 400%.   Semi-numismatic coins are a hybrid investment that combines the value of bullion with the collectible market. They are often newer bullion coins with a limited mintage and thus have a scarcity factor as part of the branding.  Sometimes, these products are exclusively manufactured or branded as a commemorative piece. They are attractive to both investors and collectors.  What is important to categorize a product in this category is the HIGHER than bullion premiums are there on both the initial buy and the subsequent resale of the product by the consumer.  This of course assumes a fair and open market.    A pretty standard example for this is US Mint Proof Gold Coins.   As of the date of this writing a 2009 Proof $50 Gold Eagle in the Original Mint Packaging sold on eBay for $2,600 while the spot price of Gold was $1,960.  That is a 132% Premium.  This item meets the test of Semi-Numismatic because it has maintained or increased its premium between its introduction and subsequent resale.    The value of a Semi-Numismatic product is determined by its precious metal content and the brand demand in the secondary market keeping premiums high.  Items can start out as Semi-Numismatic, but after a change in consumer sentiment, they can move back down into the bullion category as people are no longer willing to pay a premium for them on the secondary market.  These products do move up in down in price as do the bullion products but are defined as Semi-Numismatic because they maintain a premium greater than bullion even when they are resold.   They are said to have a medium to medium-high correlation to the value of the precious metals content. Semi-numismatic coins have some collector value as well. Their total value is between their bullion value and their collectible value. They are almost always purchased at a premium over the spot price of the metal to account for production and marketing costs.


Numismatic:  These are items that have a medium or low correlation to the value of the metal content of the product.  These items are often collected for their rarity or as a hobby.  A coin’s value in this category is determined by the coin's quality, rarity, and demand.    In this category we find things like a 1909-S VDB Cent, that contains about 2 Cents of Copper, and will readily trade for thousands of dollars.   What makes a coin numismatic?  What we often refer to as 'numismatic' pieces are crafted for collecting, whereas our 'bullion' coins are manufactured with investing in mind. Both numismatic and bullion coins can be made from exactly the same purity of metal – 9999 gold, 9999 silver, or 9995 platinum. In many cases, they even share the same designs.


It is important to understand that any of these products can move from one category to the next or back down depending on MARKET demand.  When one is working with products in these three categories the context of the “issue” must be recognized.  There are many examples of items issued with much fanfare and may have started out as Numismatic or Semi-Numismatic, and over time demands lags as collectability diminishes so that all that remains is the intrinsic metal value.   The opposite is also true.  The American Silver Eagle is an excellent example of existing in all three categories all of the time.  While its premiums of late have made it more of a Semi-Numismatic Product, it has been widely available at some times in the past for premiums more in the bullion category. the BU American Silver Eagles can trade back and forth in all 3 categories simultaneously, depending on its date, grade, and method of manufacture.