American Eagle Coins: An Overview of the U.S Mint’s Quintessential Series

Today, the Silver Eagle and the related American Eagle coin series enjoy a reputation as leading issues in the precious metals space. These coins are popular with numismatic collectors and stackers all over the world. They are one of the most trusted and coveted government-backed precious metals issues in the numismatic realm.

Today, the Silver Eagle and the related American Eagle coin series enjoy a reputation as leading issues in the precious metals space. These coins are popular with numismatic collectors and stackers all over the world. They are one of the most trusted and coveted government-backed precious metals issues in the numismatic realm.

2019 brings us the next entry in the American Silver Eagle (ASE) series, the official silver bullion coin of the United States, which is struck by the U.S. Mint. The ASE is one of the most trusted and sought-after silver bullion coins in existence, due to its guaranteed weight and purity by the U.S. Government.

The design of this thrilling coin is constant unlike issues with an annual change in the reverse design like the famous Chinese Silver Pandas and the Australian Kookaburra coins.

The obverse of the coin features the image of Lady Liberty walking over the rocky American landscape. She is wrapped in the American Flag and carries with her oak and laurel branches. The flag serves as a symbol of unity, while the oak and laurel are symbols of strength and prosperity respectively. The sun is rising in the background. This image was designed by Adolph Weinman in 1916 and is considered by many, to be the most beautiful design ever struck in silver by the U.S. Mint.

The reverse of the coin features the image of a Heraldic Bald Eagle. The eagle appears behind a small shield, has his wings spread (or “displayed”), and carries both arrows and an olive branch, which symbolize America’s desire for peace and willingness to defend it. Overhead, there is an inverted triangular field of thirteen stars, representing the original thirteen colonies. It was an original design specifically for the Silver Eagle coin series and was crafted by numismatic design legend, John M. Mercanti.

American Eagle coins are struck by the United States Mint to promote and facilitate the private ownership of gold and silver, as well as other precious metals, for collectors and stackers in the U.S. and abroad. The American Eagle Bullion Coin program includes American Gold Eagle coins, American Silver Eagle coins, American Platinum Eagle coins, and the most recent, American Palladium Eagle coins.

The various American Eagle coin series are struck in the standard bullion finish, a ”burnished” or uncirculated collector finish, and proof finishes. These coins are legal tender which means they bear a face value and have the precious metals content and purity guaranteed by the U.S. Mint, and by extension, the U.S. Government. One potentially confusing aspect for new collectors of the series is that the coins carry a face value. The intent is for the precious metal’s “intrinsic” value to greatly exceed the face value of the coin.

Since the Silver Eagle series bears a face value of $1, many collectors consider them to be the direct descendants of the widely collected Morgan silver dollar and the Anthony De Francisci-designed, Peace dollar.

Due to the Gold Reserve Act of 1934 and several preceding Executive Orders from President Franklin Roosevelt, private gold ownership was severely restricted for Americans. These restrictions remained in place between 1933 and 1975. There was no restriction on silver ownership.

Prior to 1986, the only bullion coins available were the South African Gold Krugerrand, the Canadian Gold Maple, the Australian Gold Nugget, and the Mexican Gold Libertad. The Krugerrand was the dominant gold bullion coin at the time. The American Gold Eagle was introduced to compete against the bullion coins mentioned above, as well as smaller, fractional gold coin restrikes produced in Europe, like the famous Dutch Ducat coins and the various 20 Franc coins. U.S. dimes, quarters, and halves contained 90% silver until 1964 and were saved from circulation by savvy citizens with an eye on commodity markets. This speaks to the demand and interest in silver from the numismatic and stacking communities.

Interestingly, the Silver Eagle series was innovative at the time, because there were really only privately minted bullion rounds available. The only government-sponsored issues were the wildly popular Mexican Silver Libertad and Chinese Silver Panda series, which both began production in 1982. Both of these silver series have historically had lower mintages and spotty distribution. There were no other significant government silver bullion issues at that time. The Canadian Silver Maple began issuance in 1988, the Silver Britannia in 1997, the Silver Philharmonic in 2007, and various popular Perth Mint issues began in 1992, including the Australian Kookaburra and other series. 

In 1986, the American Silver Eagle and the American Gold Eagle were first struck. The American Platinum Eagle series began later in 1997 and finally the American Palladium Eagle in 2017.

Adolph A. Weinman was a German-born artist and sculptor who studied under some art and design luminaries of his time. He is widely remembered for his numismatic contributions. He designed several noteworthy medals that are sought after by collectors. His greatest works from the perspective of coin collectors would be the Winged Liberty Head dime design and the Walking Liberty half dollar design. Both were introduced in 1916 and remain collector favorites. The design of the Walking Liberty obverse graces the ASE obverse and the Winged Liberty Head or “Mercury” dime is used on the obverse of the American Palladium Eagle coin. A Weinman design was also used on the reverse of the Palladium Eagle. He is also remembered for his prominent sculptures in, on, and around governmental buildings.

John M. Mercanti has had one of the most storied and celebrated careers in the numismatic field. He joined the staff of the U.S. Mint in 1974 and became the 12th Chief Engraver of the United States Mint in 2006. He designed over 100 coins and medals that were produced by the U.S. Mint. He retired from the U.S. Mint in 2010 and has remained active as a coin designer since that time. Undoubtedly, Mr. Mercanti’s most widely struck design was his original image used on the reverse of the American Silver Eagle coin.

Two things make a coin desirable: rarity, a limited mintage or narrow distribution, and the condition of the coin. Graded Silver Eagles are examples that have been submitted to Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) or Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) or ANACS for examination, encapsulation, and preservation as well as for a determination of the grade or condition of the coin. Third-party grading gives collectors an objective, expert appraisal of the condition of the coin. For instance, a Proof 70 coin is a flawless example. Other aspects can make a perfect coin more desirable such as the inclusion of an error attribution, a designation noting a Cameo finish, or receiving a designation such as the popular First Releases or Early Releases, which both indicate that the coin was graded and preserved within 30 days of release.

ModernCoinMart (MCM) carries a wide variety of graded coins from third-party grading services. These coins have the grade, the provenance (part of the “Congratulations Set” or from a famous noted collection) printed directly on the label, along with Deep Cameo and Ultra Cameo and similar designations. This takes a lot of guesswork out of figuring out what you have and what you are buying and gives comfort to collectors who want their heirs to know what they have.

In 2017, the United States Mint revealed that they sometimes strike bullion Silver Eagles at three different mint varieties. Thanks to a freedom of information act request by Coin World magazine’s Paul Gilkes as well as the efforts of NGC, the Mint eventually revealed a breakdown of how many Silver Eagles were struck at which mint facilities. Finally, on March 31st, 2017, NGC revealed that they could now definitely identify the coins contained in each 2011 to 2017 monster box, information which is revealed on labels via a parenthesis. So a 2016 bullion Silver Eagle struck at the San Fransisco Mint would have this information relayed via an (S) in parenthesis, even though this mint mark does not physically appear on the coins. This tradition has continued somewhat to this day, where “Struck at West Point Mint” American Silver Eagles are indicated via a (W). For more information about this exciting discovery read this info-vault article titled 2014-2017 bullion silver eagles can not carry mint marks.

The undisputed Key Date of the series is the 1995-W Proof Silver Eagle with a low mintage of 30,125 coins struck. Other series highlights include:

The 2006 3-coin 20th-anniversary set which includes two coins struck at West Point, the proof and uncirculated along with a Philadelphia struck reverse proof. Reverse-proof coins have highly reflective raised design elements and frosty appearing fields.

The 2008-W Burnished Silver Eagle with the reverse of 2007. This coin has a reverse die with some subtle differences from the reverse used in 2007. An amount of 2008 coins were struck with the old 2007 die, creating a highly sought-after mint variety, the mintage of which is reported to be 46,318.

The 2011 20th Anniversary Set contains five coins: the proof and uncirculated issues struck at West Point, the Philadelphia struck reverse proof coin, a San Francisco struck uncirculated coin, and a standard bullion coin with no mint mark.• The 2012 Set contained two coins struck at the San Francisco Mint to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of that facility. The set contained a standard proof and a reverse proof. San Francisco struck proof Silver Eagles are very popular with collectors.

The 2013 Set celebrated the 75th Anniversary of the West Point Mint. It contained two coins struck at the West Point, a reverse proof and an enhanced uncirculated coin. Enhanced Uncirculated coins have the same metal-on-metal planchet polishing preparation as other issues, but the dies have been accented with lasers to intensify the contrast and drama inherent in the design.

The 2016 Proof and Uncirculated issues featured a departure from the standard reeded edge of the Silver Eagle series. Instead, the coins have a flat edge with an incused “30th Anniversary” inscription.

2017 saw the release of the San Francisco struck “Congratulations Set” Silver Eagle. This coin has a low mintage of 75,000 and famously sold out at the U.S. Mint within two minutes. It remains quite popular with collectors.

Error coins are popular with collectors. While the U.S. Mint is very good at what they do, occasionally errors do occur like the 2008-reverse of 2007 coin. Slightly more obtainable, is the “Struck thru Error,” where an object or substance is struck between the planchet and the die, leaving a flaw in the devices or fields of the coin. These “struck thru errors” are scarce and sought after by collectors at all levels of the hobby.

In 2019, the United States Mint released the lowest mintage of the Silver Eagle series so far to date, the 2019-S Enhanced Reverse Proof. This issue has a mintage of just 30,000, which beats the previous king, the 1995-W, by just 125 coins.

Today, the Silver Eagle and the related American Eagle coin series enjoy a reputation as leading issues in the precious metals space. These coins are popular with numismatic collectors and stackers all over the world. They are one of the most trusted and coveted government-backed precious metals issues in the world. ModernCoinMart is proud to offer graded and encapsulated examples as well as Gem, as minted examples in their impressive Original Government Packaging. Browse our inventory today and join in this beautiful and historic numismatic tradition.

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