US citizens have the option of owning a precious metal IRA. What a great perk. The IRS permits you to own the following physical precious metals (with fineness standards) in an IRA:
Certain gold, silver, platinum and palladium government-minted coins are allowed in an IRA. Also qualifying gold, silver, platinum and palladium bullion bars are permitted.
Bullion bars must be approved by a regulated futures contracts exchange. This means the bullion must be produced at a NYMEX or COMEX listed refinery/mint.
US Code (IRS), Title 26, Section 408-m, (3)
(B) any gold, silver, platinum, or palladium bullion of a fineness
equal to or exceeding the minimum fineness that a contract
market (as described in section 7 of the Commodity
Exchange Act, 7 U.S.C. 7)  requires for metals which may
be delivered in satisfaction of a regulated futures contract, if
such bullion is in the physical possession of a trustee
described under subsection (a) of this section.
Some notable requirements of a precious metal IRA:
In the US Code Title 26, Section 408-m (2) collectibles are identified (see below).
(2) Collectible defined
For purposes of this subsection, the term "collectible" means -
(A) any work of art,
(B) any rug or antique,
(C) any metal or gem,
(D) any stamp or coin,
(E) any alcoholic beverage, or
(F) any other tangible personal property specified by the
Secretary for purposes of this subsection.
IRA Trustee Companies
Companies that provide precious metal IRA custodial services include:
Originally, gold and silver American Eagle Coins were the only precious metals coins the IRS permitted in an IRA. American Eagle Platinum Coins were added in 1997 when the Tax Payer Relief Act (TPRA) was passed.
Additionally, the TPRA authorized the inclusion (in an IRA) of gold, silver, platinum and palladium bullion bars that are approved by NYMEX or COMEX.
Although they are not specifically identified in the IRS code, other government-minted coins (besides American Eagles) are purchased for retirement accounts through credible IRA custodians.
I suspect these bullion coins are exempted collectibles because of Title 26, Section 408-m (3)(A)(iv) in the next grey box below ... if the word “State” means other national mints.
Many of the alternative bullion products permitted in a precious metal IRA are listed below.
Platinum and Palladium IRAs:
For those of you who want to learn more about the coins singled out in the IRS code, please continue reading.
What About American Eagle Coins?
So when the government permitted the public to include coins in a precious metal IRA, they limited their options by specifically identifying the following US minted gold and silver bullion coins:
Whereas the coin names are not listed in the IRS code, American Eagle Bullion Coins are identified by their unique specifications. This is explained in greater detail below (proof coin section).
American Eagle Gold Bullion Coins
American Eagle Gold Coins are the only alloy gold coins permitted in a gold retirement account. These coins are 91.67% gold. All other gold bullion investments for a gold IRA must be at least 99.5% gold bullion.
What About Rare Coins?
Are any numismatic/rare coins permitted in a precious metal IRA? Before answering that question, I'll briefly touch on the different rare coin categories.
Rare coins generally fall into one or more of the following groups:
Are Proof Coins Okay?
Let's focus on the first rare coin category listed above ... proof coins. Special minting dies and steps produce unique images on these coins.
Usually the most noticeable differences in appearance of proof coins are a frosty image and mirror-like background.
Rare coin features often add numismatic value beyond their precious metal content. So one is likely to assume proof coins do not qualify for a precious metal IRA.
Nevertheless well-respected IRA custodians allow the purchase of ungraded American Eagle Proof Coins for a gold IRA, silver IRA or platinum IRA.
How did these trustees make this determination? They relied on IRS rules. In Title 26, Subsection 408-m (3) the rules exempt - as collectibles - certain US gold, silver and platinum coins (see grey box below).
For purposes of this subsection, the term “collectible” shall not include—
(A) any coin which is—
(i) a gold coin described in paragraph (7), (8), (9), or (10)
of Section 5112 (a) of title 31, United States Code,
(ii) a silver coin described in section 5112 (e) of title 31,
United States Code,
(iii) a platinum coin described in section 5112 (k) of title 31,
United States Code, or
(iv) a coin issued under the laws of any State, or
The specifications (weights and diameters) of Gold and Silver Eagle Proof (and Bullion) Coins fully satisfy the coin requirements included in the grey box below (Title 31, Section 5112-a & e).
Section 5112 (a) for gold:
(7) A fifty dollar gold coin that is 32.7 millimeters in
diameter,weighs 33.931 grams, and contains one troy ounce
of fine gold.
(8) A twenty-five dollar gold coin that is 27.0 millimeters in
diameter, weighs 16.966 grams, and contains one-half troy
ounce of fine gold.
(9) A ten dollar gold coin that is 22.0 millimeters in diameter,
weighs 8.483 grams, and contains one-fourth troy ounce of
(10) A five dollar gold coin that is 16.5 millimeters in diameter,
weighs 3.393 grams, and contains one-tenth troy ounce of
Section 5112 (e) for silver:
(1) are 40.6 millimeters in diameter and weigh 31.103 grams;
(2) contain .999 fine silver;
(3) have a design—
(A) symbolic of Liberty on the obverse and
(B) of an eagle on the reverse side;
(4) have inscriptions of the year of minting or issuance,
and the words “Liberty”, “In God We Trust”, “United States of
America”,“1 Oz. Fine Silver”, “E Pluribus Unum”, and
“One Dollar”; and (5) have reeded edges.
Gold American Eagle Coins are available in 1 oz., 1⁄2 oz., 1⁄4 oz. and
1⁄10 oz. weights. These coins are specified in 7, 8, 9 and 10 respectively in the above grey box.
Also the images stamped on Silver American Eagle Coins are as described in the IRS code (Title 31, Section 5112-e ... see above grey box).
Finally US “proof platinum coins” are exempted collectibles since they are clearly included in the IRS language (Title 31, Section 5112-k ... see grey box below).
Section 5112(k) for platinum:
(k) The Secretary may mint and issue platinum bullion coins and
proof platinum coins in accordance with such specifications,
designs, varieties, quantities, denominations, and inscriptions
as the Secretary, in the Secretary’s discretion, may
prescribe from time to time.
Therefore, since it appears all three proof coins meet IRS requirements, trustees commonly treat them as exempted collectible coins if purchased for a precious metal IRA.
IRA custodians agree that American Buffalo Gold Proof Coins and
Can Proof Coins Reach Their Full Potential In A Precious Metal IRA?
The only way you can maximize the values of American Eagle Proof Coins is to own them in the traditional way (non-IRA) and have them graded by a reputable certification company.
Although they are very attractive, I would not buy American Eagle Proof Coins for a precious metal IRA. I believe the non-proof bullion coins are a better choice for a retirement account.
Like any commodity, precious metals prices vary from day to day. So it's wise to discuss the risks with a licensed professional.
Since the lists of qualifying bullion products can change, it’s a good idea to verify with your IRA trustee which items are permissible before you commit to any purchases.
The Main Benefit
This is an excellent place to revisit the main benefit of a precious metal IRA -- preserving your retirement wealth.
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