When I purchase gold bullion, especially in coin format, I tend to stay close to home. The U.S. Mint produces some excellent bullion coins, what with the American Buffalos and, of course, the ever-popular Gold Eagle. Best of all, the government guarantees weight, content, and purity.
This is not to say, however, that the other national mints are crooks and cheats. Many produce attractive bullion coins with an entirely trustworthy gold content. The South African Krugerrand springs to mind, as do the Canadian Gold Maple Leaf and the Chinese Gold Panda.
A Genuine Gem of a Nugget
In a recent article, I weighed in on raw gold nuggets, and laid out exactly why I thought you should avoid investing in them. But there’s one Nugget — and that capital “N” is important here — that I can endorse wholeheartedly: the Australian Nugget, a one-ounce, pure gold bullion coin also known as the Kangaroo.
These days the coins display images of kangaroos on the reverse (the image changes yearly), but originally, they bore a representation of the largest gold nugget ever found: the 2,284-oz (!) “Welcome Stranger” nugget recovered in 1869 in Western Australia. That image was used on the coins from 1987-1989.
From Nuggets to Kangaroos
Even after kangaroos became the official motif, the Aussie mint continued to use the old name until 2008, with “Australian Nugget” emblazoned prominently on the reverse. Nowadays, the legend reads “Australian Kangaroo,” and the image always includes one or more of the bouncy marsupials.
Queen Elizabeth II, of course, has graced the bullion coin’s obverse since its inception in ’87.
The coins were briefly known as Kangaroo-Nuggets, but after realizing how much that name resembled a potential exotic food product, people soon started calling them Gold Kangaroos instead. As it happens, the official name is now Australian Kangaroo Gold Coins.
Like our own Mint’s American Buffalo gold bullion, Australian Kangaroo Gold Coins are made of pure gold. They’re actually .9999 fine, but don’t let that fool you: that’s as pure as you’re ever likely to find in this life. Who cares if every thousandth atom or so is something else? These are 24-carat bullion.
Full-sized Gold Kangaroos weigh precisely one troy ounce, because they don’t contain any hardening metals, and measure 32.1 mm in diameter and 2.8 mm thick. The coins bear milled edges, to prevent “shaving,” surreptitious removal of small amounts of gold. The face value is $100 Australian.
Smaller denominations do exist, though they’re rare; you’re better off opting for fractional weights in American Gold Eagles, since they’re easier to get your hands on. But be aware that half-ounce, quarter-ounce, tenth-ounce, and twentieth-ounce weights do exists, in denominations of $50, $25, $15, and $5.
Gold Kangaroos of every size come in individual protective plastic covers, a fact that has both good and bad points. The good news is that they’re much less likely to get scratched up or otherwise damaged than bullion coins from some sources, which come packed together in tubes. Canadian Maple Leafs, for example.
The bad news is that this makes them a bit more bulky and therefore more difficult to store, so if you’re making a large investment, you’ll need a bit more room to keep them in.
One final note: while you can purchase Gold Kangaroos from independent buyers, be aware that the original source should be the government mint. If you have any doubt about an apparent Kangaroo’s origin, I’d recommend you purchase gold bullion coins directly from the Mint in Perth instead.