The American Gold Eagle series was introduced in 1986. It was a latecomer to the world of private gold ownership, as it debuted after other modern series like the South African Gold Krugerrand, the Canadian Gold Maple, and the Mexican Gold Libertad. At the time, this was the only modern gold bullion coin series to be guaranteed by the United States government for both purity and gold weight.
The design features the familiar Augustus Saint-Gaudens $20 “Double Eagle” obverse depicting a full-length Liberty holding the Torch of Enlightenment overhead. The reverse featured an original-to-the-series “Family of Eagles” design by artist Miley (Busiek) Tucker-Frost for the first 35 years of its history. This design was replaced in mid-2021 with a new reverse. This change marks a clear boundary between the Type-1 American Gold Eagle design and the recently debuted Type-2 design.
The series remains popular with collectors either because of, or despite, rising gold prices.
First Year of Issue: 1986
1986 1 oz. Gold Eagle Proof and Bullion Coins
The first year of issue typically holds a special place in the hearts and collections of students of the series. High-quality examples are plentiful and eagerly snapped up by series aficionados and type collectors.
Key Date Bullion American Gold Eagles
1991 1/2 oz. Gold Eagle
1991 issues feature comparatively lower mintages across the board, however the ½ oz. issue holds the low mintage record for the bullion series to date.
1999 1/10 and 1/4 oz. Gold Eagles—struck with unfinished Proof dies
One of the curious entries into the series is this pair of coins. The coins were struck as bullion issues but unlike their bullion counterparts, they feature the iconic West Point Mint “W” mintmark. They also feature an unusual finish. As the name suggests, the dies used to strike these coins were proof dies and did not receive the final polish in their specialized preparation.
While it is sometimes thought that 6,000 of these issues were struck, that figure is an estimate based on the assumption that only one die bearing the “W” mint mark was used to strike each denomination. The coins are popular with small denomination collectors, error collectors and students of the series.
2014 and 2015 1/10 oz. Gold Eagles– Narrow Reeds
There were two collars with different reeding used to strike the $5 American Gold Eagle in 2014 and 2015. The so-called “Narrow Reeds” variety has much finer reeding than that of the slightly coarser standard reeding. The 2014 seems to be the less common issue and often commands hefty premiums.
Key Date Proof American Gold Eagles
Proof American Gold Eagles are the original “Numismatic Version” of the series. These coins feature the highest quality finish. Proof coinage all over the world is regarded as the pinnacle of the coin collecting hobby. Coins featuring this finish have been used as diplomatic gifts, museum showpieces, and the cornerstone of many private collections.
While Proof American Eagles often have low mintages, the lowest mintages over time has been continually changing over the years due to a recent trend of decreasing sales, its hard to pin down major key dates. According to Coin Week, in the past particular issues, were temporarily worth more than others when they reigned as the lowest mintage coins.
2020 Proof Gold Eagle with V75 Privy
The United States Mint is releasing the first-ever American Gold Eagle to feature a privy mark in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Allied Victory that ended World War II. Called the V75-privy mark, this mark is shaped like the Rainbow Pool at the World War II memorial in Washington D.C. This exciting issue has a mintage limit of 1,945 coins which would make it, by far, the lowest mintage in the entire American Gold Eagle series to date!
Key Date Burnished American Gold Eagle
The Burnished Gold Eagle is a very interesting sub-set of the series. The Burnished American Gold Eagle is the second “Numismatic Version” of the coin to be introduced. The coins are created using dies and planchets prepared using a metal-polishing-metal technique that results in the unique, uniform frosty appearance. Burnished entries were first struck in 2006 in the 1/10, ¼, ½ and 1-ounce sizes. Due to decreased demand related to the country’s financial turmoil in 2008, the Burnished entries in the series went “on hiatus” for 2009 and 2010. When the Burnished coins resumed production in 2011, only the 1 oz. size remained.
Overall, the Burnished Gold Eagle mintages generally tend to be lower than their proof and bullion cousins. The highest mintage entries for Burnished Gold Eagles are the 2006 1 oz, the 2006 1/10 oz, and the 2007 1/10 oz. An exciting and achievable type set would be a fractional set of Burnished Gold Eagle coins. In general, most mintages are under 15,000.
2008 Burnished 1/4 oz Gold Eagle
Of the decalred mintages, the Burnished 2008 ¼ oz. Gold Eagle stands out as one of the the lowest mintage entries in the series at 8,883 for a fractional coin. Its low mintage status could possible change over the years, but how likely that is remains unclear since the Mint has not released fractional Burnished American Gold Eagle coins since 2008.
2021 Type 1 and Type 2 American Gold Eagle Designs
2021 Type 1 American Gold Eagle Design
Ever since the American Gold Eagle debuted in 1986, the reverse has featured what is commonly referred to as the “Family of Eagles” design created by sculptor Miley Busiek. Like its silver counterpart, the American Gold Eagle series transitioned to a new reverse design in mid-2021. Similar to the Silver Eagle in 2021, two different types of American Gold Eagle designs are being released in 2021. Now dubbed the Type-1 design, the Family of Eagles design graced early issues in 2021 before a new Eagle Profile design debuted in mid-2021. First and last years of issues are often thought to be significant numismatic events and 2021 marks the final time the Family of Eagles reverse design will be struck on annual American Gold Eagle releases.
2021 Type 2 American Gold Eagle Design
Announced in 2019, the United States Mint has updated the reverse design that has appeared on the American Gold Eagle series since its debut in 1986. During the summer of 2021, the series transitioned from Busiek’s classic Family of Eagles design to a new reverse design created by Jennie Norris, a participant in the Mint’s Artistic Infusion Program (AIP). The new Type-2 reverse showcases a side-profile of an Eagle’s head that includes an incredible amount of details. Other updates to the design include the obverse being slightly modified to more closely match Adolph Weinman’s original vision for the design, the inclusion of his artist initials on the obverse, and a reeded gap security measure that appears on 1 ounce versions.