The American Silver Eagle one dollar bullion coin was first minted in 1986. The coin contains one troy ounce of 99.9 percent fine silver with a face value of one dollar. Adolf A. Weinman's design for the Walking Liberty half dollar (1916-1947) was slightly modified and used for the coin's obverse. From 1986 until 2021, the reverse featured a heraldic eagle design by John Mercanti. Halfway through 2021, the reverse layout was replaced by a Flying Eagle designed by Emily Damstra.
History of the American Silver Eagle
The American Silver Eagle is part of the bullion coin program created by the United States Treasury Department and executed by the United States Mint beginning in 1986. However, the history of the American Silver Eagle starts all the way back in 1933. That is when President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 6102, which forbade the hoarding of gold in the United States.
The Gold Reserved Act of 1934 changed the official price of gold from $20.67 to $35.00 per Troy ounce. Then, on August 15, 1971, President Richard Nixon announced that the United States would no longer convert paper dollars to gold at a fixed price. This, in effect, took America off the gold standard.
In 1974, Congress passed a bill to legalize the private ownership of gold coins, bars, certificates, and other forms of bullion. President Gerald Ford signed the bill, making it legal for Americans to own gold effective December 31, 1974. After forty years of gold prohibition, Americans were hungry to own bullion.
In June 1985, Senator James McClure proposed the Liberty Coin Act to amend the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Commemorative Coin Act. The Senate Agreed to the Amendment, the House approved the bill, and on July 9, 1985, President Ronald Reagan signed it into law. This bill gave The Secretary of the Treasury the authority to mint gold and silver bullion coins. The law also established the coin's characteristics, the formula for pricing the coin, and other administrative details.
Secretary of the Treasury James Baker presided over the first striking of the American Silver Eagle on October 29, 1986, at the San Francisco mint facility. The United States bullion coin program started quietly, but it has grown into a world supplier of gold and silver bullion coins over the years. Every year millions of coins are produced for collectors and investors.
Coins for Investors
The core reason for creating the Liberty Coin Act was to provide Americans, and people around the world, a trustworthy source of gold and silver bullion coins for investment. Ensuring that the bullion coins' metallic content is exactly as stated on the coin requires anticounterfeiting measures incorporated into the design. Therefore, the minting process must be of the highest quality to ensure that counterfeiters cannot duplicate the American Eagle Bullion coins.
The first-year sales of American Silver Eagle coins were slightly over 5 million coins. By 1987 that amount tripled. Sales of business strike coins varied over the years. Over the years, sales ranged from a low of about three million coins to explosions in demand, resulting in almost fifty million coins in a single year. Americans and people around the world were hungry for trustworthy silver bullion coins.
Coins for Collectors
Coin collectors were not forgotten either. From the inception of the program in 1986 to the current day, various finishes have been produced primarily for coin collectors. At the beginning of the program, only two finishes were available: the business strike (minted for investors) and the Proof strike made especially for coin collectors. This simple arrangement of two types of finishes lasted for almost twenty years.
In 2006, the United States mint produced a special burnished finish coin and a reverse Proof coin for collectors. From this point forward, a variety of special finish coins have been created, especially to be marketed to coin collectors. This includes burnished, Proof, Reverse Proof, enhanced uncirculated, and privy marked coins.
The King of Silver Eagles
The rarest American Silver Eagle coin is the 1995-W. Ironically this became a rarity by accident when the United States mint included a free 1995-W American Silver Eagle coin with the purchase of the 1995 American Gold Eagle Anniversary set. The only way to acquire this American Silver Eagle coin was to purchase the anniversary gold set. The mint did not publicize that they included a special silver coin in the set. Therefore, only 30,125 sets were sold. Today, this American Silver Eagle coin is valued at more than $2,000.
The United States Mint also produced a variety of American Silver Eagle sets for collectors. Some of these sets included American Silver Eagles and a variety of finishes. Other sets included a single American Silver Eagle and one or more gold coins. These sets include:
- 1997 Impressions of Liberty Set
- 2006 20th Anniversary Silver Coin Set
- 2006 20th Anniversary Gold and Silver Set
- 2011 25th Anniversary Five Coin Set
- 2012 75th Anniversary of San Francisco Mint Two-Piece Set
- 2013 75th Anniversary of West Point Depository Two Coin Set
- 2019 Pride of Two Nations Limited Edition Set
Coin Values and Prices
The uncirculated business strike coins are produced and marketed toward bullion investors. Therefore, the value of these coins changes from day-to-day with the spot price of silver. You can determine the value of these investor coins by visiting any number of websites that will tell you the current spot price of silver.
The value of collector coins can also change from day-to-day depending upon the spot price of silver. If the price of silver rises to extremely high levels, the coin's bullion value may exceed the numismatic value. For example, if the spot price of silver is $20.00 per Troy ounce and a proof American Silver Eagle is selling for $40.00, the numismatic value exceeds the melt value. If silver were to raise $50.00 per ounce, the bullion value would exceed the numismatic value, and the coin would trade at the higher bullion value.
Therefore, before you buy or sell any American Silver Eagle coins, find a trustworthy coin dealer that treats you fairly and appraises your coins honestly. You may want to do some research on the Internet before you arrive at the coin dealer, so you know what the spot price of silver is and what the numismatic value of any American Silver Eagle collector coins you have.