Australia took the wraps off its new Koala coin this week, becoming the first major nation to produce coins made from platinum bullion.

The coins are 99.95 percent pure platinum and are struck with a koala on one side and Queen Elizabeth II on the other. They come in denominations of 1 ounce, one-half ounce, one-quarter ounce and one-tenth ounce.The only platinum coins currently available are from the Isle of Man, a tiny country in the Irish Sea. But Canada is close on the heels of Australia and expects to have a platinum Maple Leaf coin available by Christmas.

Australia's Koala will be on sale by mid-September.

The Koala is aimed at investors rather than coin collectors and is being priced about 5 percent to 7 percent above the market price of platinum, a relatively small markup in the coin business.

The coins can be used as legal tender in Australia, but it wouldn't be a good idea. The face value of the one-ounce coin is 100 Australian dollars (about $81.40), while the market price of platinum bullion is more than $500 an ounce.

Koala coins will be available from coin dealers as well as some brokerage houses and banks. The North American distributors are A-Mark Precious Metals Inc., Mocatta Corp. and Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith.