Vintage European gold coins represent an interesting segment of world numismatics. Although gold coins have been produced on the European continent since ancient times, mintages peaked especially in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. During this time, prosperous countries like France, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom struck large quantities of gold coins. These coins are both fascinating and beautiful but trade for relatively modest premiums above their melt value.
For centuries, one way to measure a country’s economic strength was its production of coins. States that issued gold and silver coinage were perceived to have great importance and power. Furthermore, countries wanted their currency used throughout the world. The belief was that if their money was both used and accepted worldwide, it would benefit their economy. Even the United States subscribed to this belief; on numerous occasions in the 1870s it experimented with coins designed for international usage.
In an effort to make their coins trustworthy and universally accepted, the European superpowers ensued that their gold coins fit a certain profile. In most cases, they were struck in a convenient size approximating one fifth of an ounce. This was regarded as a particularly useful size. Secondly, the coins were produced to remarkably strict standards. Their weights and purities were beyond question and incredibly consistent.
The heyday of European gold coins was the late 19th and early 20th century. Production was curtailed after World War I and became virtually non-existent after World War II. Not only was Europe in a state of turmoil, gold coins in general were waning in popularity. Furthermore, American gold coins were becoming more and more commonplace in Europe.
Today, many European gold coins are viewed as a hybrid investments and collectibles. As numismatic items, the coins are fascinating artifacts of bygone empires, rulers and states. As investment items, they are rightfully viewed as bullion products due to their reliable gold content and low premiums. Despite being historically interesting items, many European gold coins sometimes trade for a small premium compared to their melt value.
Unlike modern gold bullion products, like Eagles or Maples, the supply of vintage European gold coins is finite. When supplies are abundant, vintage Euro gold premiums are often comparable to that of modern 1/10oz and 1/4oz gold Eagles. During shortages, however, premiums can expand dramatically. Many investors employ a strategy of buying vintage European gold coins when premiums are low; doing so provides two ways to profit (higher spot prices and/or higher premiums).