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Precious Metals Eligible for an IRA

Catherine Tramell
Catherine Tramell

Last updated 19. june 2022

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A precious metals IRA (individual retirement account) is ideal for investing in gold, silver, or platinum without worrying about the hassles usually linked with owning precious physical metals. If the self-directed IRA sounds like a great way to save for your retirement, sure it is. Investing in a precious metals IRA is a less risky proposition than putting money in the stock market.

But not any random piece of gold, silver, platinum, etc., can be placed under an IRA or qualify for the retirement account. There are quite a few stipulations, norms, etc., associated with precious metals IRA. Not to mention, there’s no provision for precious metals investing with traditional IRAs.

Luckily, your self-directed IRA custodian and other stakeholders take care of that red tape and much more. That, however, doesn’t mean you can afford to sit back and let your gold IRA account custodian, precious metals dealer, and approved depository do all the work.

Granted, those stakeholders carry out most of the heavy lifting, but you must be an active participant. After all, it’s your IRA account, and letting a financial advisor call all the shots concerning its management is not correct. Moreover, your IRA custodian is likely to manage multiple accounts to give full attention to your IRA.

Besides ascertaining the amount of gold, silver, etc., to procure for your IRA account, it’s worth knowing the actual precious metal coins and bullion bars eligible for an IRA. In this article, we’ll discuss the same, primarily focusing on:

  • Gold bullion eligible for IRA
  • IRA-approved silver coins and bars
  • Platinum bullion and platinum bars for IRA, and more

If you are contemplating a precious metals IRA, consider this write-up as your primer to the valuable metal coins, rounds, and bars that could be a part of that mix.

(And if you were wondering, paper assets, such as gold mutual funds, are not allowed in an IRA. A self-directed precious metals IRA must hold precious metals in their tangible form.)

What Makes a Piece of Precious Metal IRA-Eligible?

Before getting to know the specific gold, silver, platinum, and palladium bullion eligible for self-directed IRAs, let’s begin with learning why certain bullion bars and coins make the cut for IRA investing and several others do not.

Spoiler: Only a handful of gold bullion and other precious metal coins and bars are eligible for IRA distribution.

To be considered “IRA metals”, gold, silver, platinum, etc., must be the purest versions of these metals or meet specific fineness requirements. Gold coins must have a millesimal fineness of 995 or 99.5. That means 995 parts of the coin (out of 1,000) should be gold. The remainder could be another metal (copper, nickel, etc.).

To learn more about what 24 karats mean or gold purity in general, read our “Gold Purity: A Complete Guide” piece.

For other precious metals, the purity numbers should be as follows:

  • Silver (0.999 or more)
  • Platinum (0.9995 or more)
  • Palladium (0.9995 or more)

Besides the above, the small bullion bars and coins must also be made by an approved assayer or refiner or the state itself. The refiner or manufacturer must be accredited by NYMEX, COMEX, LME, LPPM, LBMA, or a national government mint. Bullion bars should be the exact weight specifications mentioned on them.

Not to mention, the coins and bars must be in excellent condition. And if those are the “proof” kind, they must have their original packaging intact and include an authenticity certificate, besides being in mint condition, of course.

Read more: Top Gold IRA companies

IRA-Approved Gold

All 24-karat gold bullion coins are eligible for gold IRAs, provided the state or approved refinery mints them. Below is the list of IRA-approved gold coins:

  • American Gold Eagle
  • Canadian Maple Leaf
  • American Buffalo
  • Australian Nugget/Kangaroo
  • Australian Koala
  • Austrian Philharmonic
  • The Queen’s Beasts

If you know anything about gold coins, you may have realized the Chinese Gold Panda and the South African Krugerrand are conspicuously missing from the above list. And there are reasons for that (geopolitical conflicts not being one of them).

The Gold Panda, for instance, boasts .999 fineness. A one-ounce coin contains 30 grams of pure gold. But the mints based in Shanghai, Beijing, Shenyang, and Shenzhen that produce Gold Panda coins aren’t approved by the U.S. treasury department.

The South African Krugerrand, on the other hand, is not allowed in an IRA for a pretty straightforward reason—the coin has a fineness of only 0.9167%. That is too little gold per coin to be deemed eligible for a self-directed IRA.

By the way, the gold bars eligible for an IRA include:

  • UBS Gold Bars (Credit Suisse)
  • Royal Canadian Mint Gold Bars
  • Valcambi Gold Bars
  • Sunshine Mint Gold Bars
  • Johnson Matthey Gold Bars

The above bars of gold may come in different fineness but never lower than the minimum requirement for a gold IRA. The Valcambi gold bar, for instance, comes in 999.9, 999.0, and 995.0 levels of purity. A fineness of 999.9 means 99.99% of the bar is pure gold.

IRA-Approved Silver

The next popular metal after gold for a precious metals IRA is silver. And thanks to its broad appeal, most gold bullion bars and coins mentioned above are available in the silver avatar, besides some unique ones.

The noteworthy silver bullion coins eligible for a silver IRA include:

  • American Silver Eagle
  • Austrian Silver Philharmonic
  • Canadian Silver Maple Leaf
  • Australian Silver Kookaburra
  • Mexican Libertad

Kindly note that the Mexican Libertad coin is also available in gold, which is IRA-eligible. It didn’t feature in the gold IRA-approved list above because it isn’t as well-known as the other coins.

Some of the silver bars eligible for an IRA are:

  • Silver Valcambi CombiBar
  • Canadian Mint Silver Bar
  • Johnson Matthey Silver Bar
  • Engelhard Silver Bar
  • Sunshine Mint Silver Bar

Most of the aforementioned silver bars also come in gold, platinum, and even palladium—for example, the Johnson Matthey and Valcambi CombiBar bars.  

IRA-Approved Platinum

Platinum bullion coins and bars may not be as popular as gold and silver, but there’s no shortage of options. Pretty much every coin made in gold and silver also has a platinum version.

The following are some of the platinum coins and bars eligible for an IRA:

  • American Eagle Platinum Coin
  • Canadian Maple Leaf Platinum Coin
  • Australian Koala Platinum Coin
  • Isle of Man Noble Platinum Coin

Platinum bars include:

  • Credit Suisse Platinum Bar
  • PAMP Suisse Fortuna Platinum Bar
  • Valcambi Platinum Bar
  • Johnson Matthey Platinum Bar, etc.

Once again, pretty much any IRA-eligible in gold or silver has its platinum variant.

IRA-Approved Palladium

Since palladium is not as prevalent as gold and other metals, perhaps due to its steep price and its demand far exceeds its supply, palladium bullion coins aren’t as common as gold coins or silver coins. As a result, they rarely get discussed in the precious metal IRA context.

But if you manage to buy accredited coins or bars with a purity of at least 99.95%, you may set up a new IRA account with just palladium as the underlying metal. Look at Credit Suisse or Baird palladium bars to get started.

Valcambi Suisse palladium and PAMP Suisse Fortuna palladium are other palladium bullion bar options. The American Palladium Eagle and Canadian Palladium Maple Leaf coins are good palladium coin options.

If you dig up a few other palladium coins, make sure they pass the IRA purity test, and the mints producing the palladium bars and coins should be IRS-approved.

An array of palladium bullion coins may not be considered IRA-approved precious metals—including Portugal Palladium Proof Coins, China Palladium Panda 100 and 50 Yuan Coins, and Isle of Man U.S. Constitution Palladium coins.

Precious Metal Bullion Not Eligible for an IRA

All four precious metals are eligible for an IRA, provided they are in their purest form and as bullion. However, some of their kinds may not qualify for an IRA, which includes:

Numismatic Coins

A numismatic coin is a coin that trades at a value greater than its melt value. Unlike bullion coins, numismatic coins are no longer produced and, as a result, are rare and considered “collectible coins”. These coins are valued higher for their “collectability” and not for their precious metal content alone. Since it can be hard to appreciate or suss up the coin’s value subjectively, they are usually not allowed in an IRA.

As numismatic physical metals were likely minted decades ago, they are usually not in their best states. That’s another reason numismatic coins are excluded from IRAs. Your self-directed IRA provider would require the precious metal to be in excellent condition before the depository takes physical possession. The $10 and $20 Eagle coins minted before 1933, Swiss 20 Francs, Peace silver dollars, and British Sovereigns are some numismatic coins that don’t make the IRA cut.

Non-IRS Approved Coins

Besides collectible or rare coins, other precious metal coins not eligible for an IRA include the following:

  • Austrian Corona
  • Swiss Franc
  • Belgian Franc
  • British Sovereign
  • British Britannia
  • French Franc
  • Dutch Guilder
  • Chilean Peso
  • Hungarian Korona, etc.

The reasons the above coins are not IRA-eligible could be multifold. But mainly, it’s the mint behind these coins that may not be IRS-approved and/or the currency did not meet purity requirements.

The coins listed above are only some of the several bullion coins not eligible for a precious metal IRA.

Read more: Best gold IRA companies

Conclusion

Not very long ago, precious metals IRA could only consist of gold and silver American Eagle coins. The scope, however, has broadened to include all IRS-permitted gold and silver coins. Not to mention, palladium and platinum are also now allowed.

However, the list of eligible coins across the various metals is still pretty limited. As someone looking to start a precious metals IRA or add new coins to an existing account, it’s essential to know the precious metals allowed and the ones that aren’t on the approved list.

On a related note, if you’ve never set up a precious metals IRA before and would like to create one but aren’t sure which metal to opt for, do a gold IRA. Physical gold is the most popular precious metal due to its stability, value, and bullion coin options. It’s, therefore, a solid choice.

You may always branch out to the other precious metals once you’ve become familiar with the self-directed IRA landscape. To learn more about the gold IRA companies to set up your gold IRA account, check this page out.

FAQs

Should you invest in precious metal bars or coins?

Whether you’re considering investing in gold, silver, platinum, or platinum, invest in small quantities or as coins. Due to their smaller size and value than the more oversized bullion bars, coins are easier to liquidate.

Moreover, precious metal bars are not as easily recognizable as coins. For instance, gold American Eagle coins (irrespective of their metal) are popular among physical metal investors, thanks to the branding. There’s no branding associated with gold, silver, palladium, and platinum bars. The lack of recognition and the increased possibilities of counterfeiting means these bars undergo scrutiny before a trade.

And because bullion bars are on the larger and heavier side, their transport and security requirements are greater. On the other hand, there are no such encumbrances for one-ounce silver coins and gold coins.