American national parks and sites have another series of coins in their honor in addition to the quarters. Dubbed the America the Beautiful Silver Bullion Coin™ Program by the United States Mint, these 5 oz, .999 fine silver coins are actually a sister series of the more publicized circulating America the Beautiful Quarters™.
The inaugural five releases featured four National Park 5 oz. Silver Bullion Coins and one National Forest 5 oz. Silver Bullion Coin. They included:
- 2010 Hot Springs National Park Silver Bullion Coin (Arkansas)
- 2010 Yellowstone National Park Silver Bullion Coin (Wyoming)
- 2010 Yosemite National Park Silver Bullion Coin (California)
- 2010 Grand Canyon National Park Silver Bullion Coin (Arizona)
- 2010 Mount Hood National Forest Silver Bullion Coin (Oregon)
In the quarters series, every reverse design is emblematic of a site of national interest such as a national park or national forest, with one site chosen from each state, the District of Columbia and the five territories of the United States. The obverse features the traditional portrait of George Washington.
Both sides of the silver bullion coins are identical to the quarters. However, the coin specifications for the bullion versions are quite different. Authorized by the America’s Beautiful National Parks Quarter Dollar Coin Act of 2008 — the same as the circulating quarters, the coins are required to:
- Have a composition of .999 fine silver
- Weigh five ounces
- Feature a 3 inch diameter
- Include edge inscriptions of weight and fineness
The size means each America the Beautiful Silver Coin is much larger than any other bullion coin produced by the U.S. Mint.
For reference, the Mint’s staple piece for silver bullion is the American Silver Eagle, which is struck from one ounce of silver to a diameter of 1.598 inches. That makes the America the Beautiful Bullion strikes almost twice as large.
To achieve the required results, the Mint purchased a new $2.2 million Graebener coining press and has been in the process of both installing the machine as well as completing test coin strikes. Early results proved problematic as the specifications require the aforementioned edge inscriptions, which tended to crumble the edges. The Mint worked through those problems but the time it took cut into the mintage levels for the 2010 issues. Only 33,000 of each design were produced, and all issues were released on December 10, much later than expected. In contrast, the 2011 issues have minimum mintages of 126,500 for each. The first two 2011-dated silver bullion coins were released on April 25, 2011.
Future silver bullion coins — in years 2012 and beyond — are expected to launch around the same time as their corresponding quarter. (See National Park Quarter Release Dates.)
Where to buy silver bullion coins
The U.S. Mint does not offer any of its bullion products directly to the public, but instead through its network of authorized dealers. As such, the new coins will be found through the same channels as the bullion American Buffalo gold coins, the bullion American Gold Eagles and the bullion American Silver Eagles.
Additionally, the coins may also be sold by the National Park Service (NPS). The authorizing law provides an exception where the "Director of the National Park Service, or the designee of the Director" may purchase units of them in no fewer than 1,000 at a time, and then may resell them. As of this writing, however, the NPS has chosen not to offer the coins.
The United States Mint also produces numismatic 5 oz versions. These are in brilliant uncirculated qualities and feature a "P" mint mark, unlike the bullion coins. The first issue for Hot Springs is scheduled to launch on April 28.