Mexican Silver Libertad Bullion and Proof Coins

Of all the world bullion coins, arguably the most beautiful is the Mexican Libertad.  Minted since 1982, in the oldest mint in North America, the Casa de Moneda de Mexico (literally the House of Mexican Money, founded in 1535 by the Spanish as a way of minting coins with the gold plundered in conquest) the .999 silver bullion coins first featured  a winged Victory of Mexican Independence on one side, and behind her is the volcanoes with the story of Popocatepetl and Iztacchihuatl.

These are sometimes called the type 1 Libertads, and were minted from 1982 to 1995.  The story is that Popocateptl fell in love with the princess Izataccihuatl, and like Romeo and Juliet they were from different tribes and couldn’t be together so while Popocateptl was in battle, one of his enemies spread a rumor that he was dead, and the princess died of a broken heart.  When he returned, he laid her body on a mountain, that takes her name to this day, and the peak that has his name is in tribute of him watching over her remains.

The view of the winged victory was changed in 1996 and the reverse of the familiar eagle with a snake in his mouth over a cactus was shrunk to include room for the Mexican province symbols.  Similar to the American Eagle, the basis of the Libertad was a 50 peso (gold) coin used from 1921-1947.

The Libertads minted only 1 ounce BU coins from 1982 to 1990, and then in 1991 began minting fractional coins: 1/20 ounce of silver, 1/10 ounce of silver, 1/4, 1/2, 1 ounce silver coins.  In 1996 a 2 ounce and 5 ounce coin was added.  The mintages are difficult to assess for a variety of reasons: tiny mintages in some cases, and many coins were melted down by jewelry makers as silver prices dropped, and melted down by bullion dealers as silver rose.  The lowest mintage of the 1 oz BU libertads is the 1998, with 67,000.  The lowest of the 1/20 ounce is 1998 at 6400.  6400 is also the lowest 1/10,1/4,1/2 B U.  The lowest BU 2 ounce is 2300 (1998) and 5 ounce is 2300 (1998).

The 3 year stretch of 1997, 1998, and 1999 is sometimes referred to as the “Holy Trinity” of Libertads, due to the insane scarcity of coins minted in those years (1997: 100,000, 1998: 67,000, 1999: 95,000).  It gets even crazier in the proof coins (see below).

Average Libertad prices range from around 40$ for a ‘common’ year, to around $240 for the 1998.  The prices don’t seem to be affected too much by spot except the most common years.  There are a few varieties of the Libertad that are recognized, most notably the 1991 has a variety in which the word “onza” is printed with different lettering and sells for a premium of around double the normal 1991.

A giant Kilogram silver coin, with a proof-like finish was added in 2002, and the mintages have gone from 1820 in 2002, to a low of 500 in 2005.  Sometimes these kilos fetch huge premiums sometimes they are a few hundred over melt.  The Libertad market is highly volatile and due to its low mintage, can be a very exciting series to try to stay on top of.

Proof Libertads are among the most difficult and valuable of any modern proof silver coin.  They started with a proof set in 1983 that came as part of a government set, with a mintage of 998.  Then there were no more proofs produced until 1986 (the most common year, with 30,000 minted).  Since 1986, the 1 ounce has been produced every year, and then in 1992, fractional proofs were announced.  From 1992 until 1995, 1/20, 1/10,1/4, 1/2, 1 ounce proofs were produced as sets, usually in holdered pouches by the Mexican mint.

The 1998 1 ounce proof- probably the most well known of the hard to find proofs, regularly fetches around $2,500, and the mintages of some of the proofs are absolutely comical.  The 1 ounce 1998 proof has a mintage of 500, The fractionals are even more scarce- the 1/20 ounce proof (and the 1/4 and 1/10 from 1998, have a mintage of 300).  300!?

When you factor in the coins lost and sold, you can see the Libertad market has maybe 3 changing hands of these mintages per year (or less).

*All mintages are available on for perusal here.

In 1996, with the new Libertad design, the new proofs also began offering 2 ounce and 5 ounce silver proof coins.  These have always been very low mintages (the 1999 5 ounce has a mintage of 100 and sells for thousands), the 1999 2 ounce proof has a mintage of 280 and is similarly priced.

Don Bailey is the most reliable source for figures from the Libertads and he states that the 2011 mintages dipped a bit for the 2 ounce proof (only 1000) and the kilo (1000).  The 5 ounce proof came in at only 2000.  The 1/2 ounce proof and 1/4 ounce proof came in at only 5000.  You regularly see ‘wooden box’ libertad proof sets for years come up for sale.  These fetch a substantial premium because all of the wooden box sets were limited to a max of 1000 per year.

Gold Libertads are a separate post, but here’s a nutshell: the gold proofs have been offered since 2005 in 1/20, 1/10, 1/4, 1/2, and 1 ounce proof.  The BU 1 ounce has been offered in 1981, and then from 1991-1994 offered as fractionals, and again in 2000, and then from 2002 to 2011.

Now, enough of the background- here’s the big news!

2012 marks the first year since 1991 that Libertad proofs will not be offered in fractional or 2 and 5 ounce sizes.

Repeat- Don Bailey reports that the ONLY 2012 Libertads that will be produced by the Mexican Mint this year are the 1 ounce BU, the 1 ounce Proof and the 2 and 5 ounce BU.

Here is what his newsletter says: 

In 2012, there will be only one silver proof coin forthcoming: the 1oz silver Libertad proof. There will be no other silver proof coins. There will be no 5pc silver Libertad proof sets.  There will be no 5pc gold Libertad proof sets.

The coins that will be offered for 2012 are as follows:

1 oz BU

2 oz BU

5 oz BU

1/2 oz BU

1/4 oz BU

1/10 oz BU

(Yes, no 1/20 oz coin)

and the 1oz gold Libertad BU.

I understand that many of you are scratching their heads wondering why, and my best answer is budget constraints.  

So- what does this mean for the future of Libertad collectors/collections?  Well, for one, it at the very least makes 2012 a confusing year.  One theory is that since 1992 was the first year of fractional proofs, perhaps there will be a 30th anniversary set (my theory).  The other theory is that they are putting the fractional proofs to bed like the American buffalo fractionals, and now you can make a complete a set from 1982/3 (if you include the 1 ounce proofs) to 2012 with only the 1992-2011 fractional proofs.  At the very least, it makes one of the most beautiful coins in the world that was already incredibly scarce, even more tricky to collect, and provides the kind of spark to keep collectors guessing!

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Comments

  1. G says

    Phil- there should be a new libertad post forthcoming. The different obverse you are naming might be because you are being offered fractionals – there weren’t different versions for the same year in the same denominations other than the known variations. The 96-99 years are very scarce.

  2. Bob says

    Hi,
    I was wondering if the 1991 libertad was the only year that had the two different spellings of the word onza. I have two, one with onza and the other with ONZA. Iwould appreciate any info.
    thanks

  3. ken parks says

    Just fyi- purchased a wood set and it had a gold figure with it. Says that half were domestic with gold plated winged liberty and other half were shipped out of Mexico with silver players liberty! So 500 of each were minted.

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