No, not really at all. What is "seigniorage"? It is the added value that attaches to a bit of metal (or paper) when the government deems it to be legal tender. For example, a few cents worth of copper and bronze are stamped and boom - we have a quarter worth $0.25.
But platinum is part of the US bullion coin program, along with silver, gold and palladium. Using gold as an example, the Mint takes an ounce of gold worth maybe $1,600, stamps it with a face amount of $50 and boom - sells it for $50, thereby losing $1,550. NO!
They sell it for $1,600 plus a mark-up for production, marketing and administration. But that magic stamp of $50 isn't why they can sell the coin for more than $1,600 - it's the gold!
With the bullion coin program the Mint makes money by banging out their precious metal coins more cheaply than the Canadians can deliver their Maple Leafs, the Australians their Koalas, the Chinese their Pandas, and so on. How does General Motors make money? Seigniorage or great products? Yeah, this is America!
The US does make seigniorage on its circulating coins (the stuff in your pockets). Let's cut to the Mint's annual report:
The United States Mint (Mint) operates two fiscally separate programs: a circulating program and a numismatic program that includes both collectible coin products and precious metal bullion coins. The Mint enjoyed strong performance throughout fiscal year (FY) 2012 in both programs. Though revenue decreased in each program in FY 2012, as a result of our continued focus on costs, we generated positive seigniorage in our circulating program and positive net income in our bullion and collectible coin programs.
There is one bit of crossover - the Mint markets collectible editions of conventional circulating coins (such as proof sets of the new quarters.) Those coins don't circulate but they do produce seigniorage gains. However, that is not part of the bullion program.
So no, the platinum program was never intended to produce siegniorage profits.
And the next comic caper:
What did those dumb bunnies say? Matt shows us a graphic in which Fox News explained that a Trillion Dollar Platinum coin would weigh 17,773.995 tons, equal to 89 blue whales or one nuclear sub. Har de har! Back to Matt:
Here's Fox News confusing the idea of a coin-shaped pile of platinum worth $1 trillion and a $1 trillion coin that happens to be made out of platinum and can be of any size. We saw earlier this week that the National Republican Campaign Committee also doesn't understand how coins work, so perhaps I can try again to explain.
You know what? Let me try to explain. The law we are looking at says that "(k) The Secretary may mint and issue platinum bullion coins and proof platinum coins..."
And what is a "bullion coin" you might ask, although Matt has not? Let's go to the Mint for a definition (my emphasis):
A bullion coin is a coin that is valued by its weight in a specific precious metal. Unlike commemorative or numismatic coins valued by limited mintage, rarity, condition and age, bullion coins are purchased by investors seeking a simple and tangible means to own and invest in the gold, silver, and platinum markets.
"Valued by its weight"? Like the way a $50 gold coin can be worth $1,600? Gee, that means a One Trillion Dollar Platinum Bullion coin would have to weigh... as much as a nuclear sub. Har de har indeed.
Hmm. Maybe the Foxies are still wrong even though they are right about bullion coins. After all, maybe the Secretary could produce a "proof platinum coin". But what is that?
The long answer is at the bottom of this earlier post. The short answer is that 'proof' coins refer to enhanced production techniques that result in great looking coins. However, as best I can tell from looking at the product offerings at the Mint or by reading the law on coins, "proof" coins always have their conventional counterpart.
[Or let me cite this handy defintion from "The Coin Site":
Proof Coins are specially made examples of regular issue coins historically used as gifts or for presentation.]
More on the history of proof coins issued in the US here. The gist - as best I can tell (but I have only paged through two books at the library and do not claim a numismatist), there are examples of conventional coins being struck without accompanying proof versions for collectors, but there are no examples of proof coins being struck for which there is no conventional circulating, commemorative or bullion counterpart. Which is consistent with the defintion provided above.]
For example, in addition to conventional circulating quarters like the ones jinggling in your pocket the Mint makes proof quarters of conventional metal for collectors (very pretty!) and Silver Proof quarters that will knock your eyes out. The Silver Proof quarters are worth about $8 each based on the silver content, but have a face value of $0.25. No seigniorage there.
Or here is an example of how "proof" is used elsewhere in the law:
(6) Quality of coins.—The bullion coins minted under this Act shall be issued in both proof and uncirculated qualities.
There are many similar examples, and please note the pairing of "proof" with a conventional counterpart (in this example, uncirculated).
The point being, under the one-sentence law governing platinum coins, the normal meaning of "proof platinum coin" would simply be the proof version of a platinum bullion coin or the proof platinum version of some circulating coin (e.g., a platinum proof dollar).
In either case, however, we are talking about a Trillion Dollar coin that can't exist - we don't have 18,000 tons of platinum for a bullion coin, proof version or no, and we don't have a circulating trillion dollar coin we can spruce up in platinum.
In principal, the phrase "proof platinum coin" has a fairly clear meaning distinct from "platinum coin"; it is also pretty clear that Matt has no idea what that meaning might be, and I am not fully pounding the table myself. But Laurence Tribe had this to say in endorsing the Trillion Dollar coin:
Using the statute this way doesn’t entail exploiting a loophole; it entails just reading the plain language that Congress used.
Of course, Congress probably didn’t have trillion-dollar coins in mind, but there’s no textual or other legal basis for importing this probable intention into the statute. What 535 people might have had in their collective “mind” just can’t control the meaning of a law this clear.
How clear is it? "Proof platinum coin" surely means something different from "platinum coin". "Bullion coin" certainly does. So how do the Coiners propose that we glean the meaning of that phrase? I think history, common practice, and legislative intent would be sensible places to start if we really can't agree that proof sets of coins don't exist except alongside conventional counterparts.
AND SPEAKING OF CLEAR LANGUAGE: Elsewhere in the law there are fairly specific definitions the shape of a coin as to weight, diameter and edging. Yet in the one sentence on platinum coins we are told that the Secretary has full discretion to issue coins
"...with such specifications, designs, varieties, quantities, denominations, and inscriptions as the Secretary, in the Secretary's discretion, may prescribe from time to time."
So can the Secretary exert his discretion to authorize issuance of a six-side cube with graphics of the American landscape? I say no, because even though it is not defined here, a "coin" is not a die, and we all know it. As to what the Coiners would say, I am not so sure.