An online coin distributor in Burnsville is selling the only 22-pound, solid-gold 2008 Beijing Olympics commemorative coin available in the United States — and it can be yours for just $1 million.

The coin -- which is 7 inches across -- is the largest Olympic commemorative coin produced and "the most important coin ever released by the government of China," according to Nick Bruyer, president of, the Burnsville dealer.

"It's really at the top from a rarity and desirability point of view," he said of the coin, which is coin number 21 of only 29 minted. "You have the most important coin from the largest country in the world, and we think that makes it very important historically, too."

The coins have about $245,000 worth of gold in them. Their face value is 100,000 Chinese yuan, or a little more than $14,500 each.

The front of the coin features the colored emblem of the Beijing Games, with a design derived from Chinese ancient bronze ware. The back of the coin shows the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests and a group of athletes across the foreground.

"This is the ultimate 'I was at' or 'I have a memento from the 2008 Beijing Olympics' piece, " said Douglas Mudd, curator of the American Numismatic Association's Money Museum in Colorado. "This is, as much as anything, a publicity stunt. It's an amazing, huge piece, and it shows that China can do this."

The coin found its way to Burnsville because is one of only two distributors licensed by China and the U.S. Olympic Committee to distribute commemorative Olympic coins in the United States. Part of the proceeds support the Beijing Olympics and part go to the U.S. Olympic Committee. was also the world's No. 2 distributor for coins from the Sydney Olympic Games.

Collecting Olympic coins is nothing new, according to Mudd. The ancient Olympics had coins associated with them. And that tradition has continued since the advent of the modern Olympics: Everyone from tourists on the streets of Beijing to the world's wealthiest coin collectors will be able to buy and trade the various coins and medals. "The Games have become a showcase window into the countries that host them," Bruyer said, "and so the coins become symbols of the games. They're a way to participate without actually being at the games and own something valuable and important from the country that hosted them."

The coins are particularly attractive to Chinese collectors, who have snatched up the majority of the 29 coins, Bruyer said. That's because China's communist government made it illegal to own gold until four years ago, so it's a very "new, dynamic market," he said.

Bruyer founded the Burnsville company in 1984, he said, and it has always been involved in government coin releases, including those from China, Russia and Britain.

The Beijing coin can be sold only within the U.S. market, and Bruyer said the company has already had a few inquiries, so it could be sold within days. At the very least, he said, he expects it to be gone by the time the Games start on Aug. 8. And it will be transported to the buyer via armored truck.

"It obviously would be the crowning piece to any major collection," Bruyer said.

Emily Johns • 952-882-9056