Along with the Canadian Maple and the Silver Britannia, the American Silver Eagle occupies a small list of the most popular coins of all time. Distributed primarily by the United States Mint, the American Silver Eagle Coin is considered the official bullion coin of the United States of America. Like official coins of other countries, the American Silver Eagle is a minting priority of the mint that created it. Much of the U.S. Mint’s considerable resources are devoted to making this coin as detailed and beautiful as possible.
Featuring depictions of both Lady Liberty walking and a flying bald eagle, the coin represents the epitome of the American spirit and culture. The country’s incredible history is closely depicted on both sides of this historic coin. While the design changed from a heraldic eagle to a flying eagle in 2021, bullion collectors anticipate that the coin will continue to be one of the most valuable and collectable silver pieces on the market.
It may seem straightforward, but the American Silver Eagle Coin comes with an extensive history of design, development and perfecting. We recommend that consumers become familiar with the details of any bullion product they choose to buy, and the American Silver Eagle Coin is no exception – even despite its popularity among collectors.
This page will walk potential customers through everything that a well-versed collector should know about the American Silver Eagle. We’ll explain the history of the United States Mint, the design and specifications of the coin, and more.
The United States Mint
The U.S. Mint is one of the newer government mints on the bullion scene. Compared to the British Royal Mint, which was founded over one-thousand years ago, the United States government-backed mint system is still a baby. The mint was founded in 1792 in Philadelphia; the mint originally included only one mint mark, which represented Philadelphia. It didn’t take long before demand for U.S. coinage led to the establishment of several other minting facilities. The U.S. Mint today includes mints in Denver, San Francisco, West Point, and Philadelphia.
Attempts to establish a mint in the United States actually predate the creation of the Philadelphia branch of the U.S. Mint. Colonists from the Massachusetts Bay colony created a Boston Mint over a century earlier in 1652. Some fans of U.S. history erroneously believe that U.S. coinage was not necessary for the United States economy until the country established its independence. This is not the case; the blossoming New England economy needed coinage in order to establish trade among ‘citizens’ in the area.
This New England mint was not legal, however, at least according to British law. The mint was created without prior approval of the British Crown. During the period of time in which the United States was a British colony, we were never able to secure a British mint of our own. This is a different story than Canada’s Royal Mint, which eventually became an official branch of the Royal British Mint.
But the United States won its own Mint in 1782, when our Congress of the Confederation – a provisional government – allowed the Mint to create the first ‘Fugio cent,’ which represented the Continental dollar. This Mint didn’t become the U.S. Mint that we know now until the passage of the 1792 Coinage Act, which allowed the Department of State to regulate the creation of coins on behalf of the United States government.
In 1799, the U.S. Mint became its own agency, and it continued to be responsible for the conversion of precious metals – mainly silver – into official coins for the government. The mint’s original purpose was to create coins to be used for transactions. After the passage of another Coinage Act in 1873, the mint began producing coins exclusively for the U.S. Treasury for distribution.
We won’t bore you with an in-depth exploration of the history of the Mint’s branches. While attempts were made to establish lasting branches in North Carolina, Georgia, and New Orleans, the only mint marks that remain today are the four we discussed above: Denver, San Francisco, West Point, and Philadelphia.
Each of these mints produces its own coins. Collectors can note the mint origins of their coins by looking for the mint mark on the obverse side. A coin inscribed with the letter ‘P,’ for example, was refined and struck in the Philadelphia mint.
Some mint marks on American coins are especially valuable, especially if they are found on certain coins. Some coins minted with the Carson City mint mark, for example, are exceptionally valuable. If you are interested in circulation coins, such as the American penny, quarter or half-dollar, rarity often closely relates to the mint mark included on the coin.
History of the American Silver Eagle Coin
While the U.S. Mint is several centuries old, the history of the American Silver Eagle begins only in 1986. The coin was approved for minting and distribution via the Liberty Coin Act of 1985, and production began the next year by several branches of the United States Mint. The first mint tasked with producing the American Silver Eagle Coin was the San Francisco Mint. The presiding Secretary of the Treasury, James A. Baker III, conducted a highly publicized striking ceremony at the San Francisco Mint.
During the ceremony, the Chicago Sun-Times quotes Baker as saying that he didn’t “need a pick and shovel to start the San Francisco Silver Rush of 1986.” His immortal words couldn’t have been more true; the popularity of the American Silver Eagle certainly constitutes a kind of silver rush among collectors all around the world. The silver rush remained confined to San Francisco for twelve years before the Philadelphia and West Point Mints were given permission to strike and distribute the American Silver Eagle.
Bullion variants of the coin have been produced since the original striking run in 1986. The U.S. Mint has periodically distributed proof versions of the coin, but production of proofs briefly ceased from 2008 to 2010, when the Mint resumed distribution of American Silver Eagle proofs. Uncirculated American Silver Eagles are relatively new, having been first released by the mint for two years from 2006-2008. Production of these uncirculated American Silver Eagles resumed again in 2011, and they are still available yearly today.
Demand for the American Silver Eagle has waxed and waned over the years since its initial release, although times of economic turmoil have historically helped to increase public interest. The global economic recession of 2008 was particularly impactful on the American Silver Eagle Coin. As investors searched for ways to combat inflation and secure their investments, American bullion coins proved a valuable asset type.
The “unprecedented demand” resulting from the financial crisis led to a limit being placed on the number of American Silver Eagles that each retailer could purchase for collection or resale. In 2008, the Proof Silver Eagle was unavailable to investors, and the uncirculated version of the coin sold out relatively quickly in the same year. Demand has remained relatively high since that time; the American Silver Eagle frequently sold out quickly in the years following the financial collapse of 2008.
To date, over 500,000,000 American silver eagles have been minted by the various branches of the U.S. Mint. The vast majority of these coins have been of the bullion variety, which is the most popular version of the American Silver Eagle.
American Silver Eagle Details
As we noted above, the American Silver Eagle offers an impressive history within the bullion market. There is no denying that it is one of the most popular bullion coins of all time. American Silver Eagle Coins are as popular as other official national bullion coins, such as the Silver Britannia and the Canadian Silver Maple.
Part of the allure of the American Silver Eagle is the great level of attention associated with its design, production, and distribution processes. The United States Mint works closely to ensure that all of its coins are struck with .999 pure silver – the purest silver content that most bullion coins are able to offer. Uniquely, the American Silver Eagle is also only produced in its 1 Troy Oz variant. Each coin includes 1 Troy Ounce of .999 pure silver bullion. The coin includes reeded edges and a shiny background, which allows the images on the reverse and obverse to ‘pop’ for investors.
The following subsections will take a closer look at the designs on both sides of this historic coin. After all, the intense detail on the American Silver Eagle Coin is one of its biggest selling points for investors and collectors alike.
Silver Eagle Obverse Design
The obverse of the American Silver Eagle includes ‘Walking Liberty.” Lady Liberty has been a hallmark of American iconography for centuries. Here, she is depicted walking toward a rising sun. She gestures in the direction of the sun with one hand, and her other hand holds a set of long olive branches. Liberty also wears her characteristic gown, which flows as she walks.
Lady liberty is also draped in the American flag. On the obverse side of the American Silver Eagle, we can also note the characteristic phrase “In God We Trust,” as well as the date of minting and the inscription “Liberty.” The design of Walking Liberty was designed by artist Adolph A. Weinman in 1916. This design has remained static since the first American Silver Eagle was minted in 1986. This is something that few official government coins can offer; the historical consistency of the design is something that many investors appreciate about the American Silver Eagle.
Like other national coins, including the Silver Britannia, the symbolism of the American Silver Eagle represents the spirit and history of the government that manufactures it. Lady Liberty as a statue was given to the U.S. by France in order to commemorate the country’s impressive revolution for independence against Britain. By invoking the image of Lady Liberty on this coin, the American Silver Eagle presents an impressive relic from U.S. history.
Silver Eagle Reverse Design
The reverse of the American Silver Eagle doesn’t offer the same consistency presented by the obverse, but many investors consider this to be a major advantage for long-term collectability. Prior to 2021, the reverse of the American Silver Eagle was the heraldic eagle. The eagle has thirteen stars above its head, which are meant to represent the thirteen original U.S. colonies. The eagle holds arrows in one of its talons and an olive branch in the other, while the American shield is held to its chest.
In 2021, the U.S. Mint offered investors a brand new opportunity by introducing a revamped reverse-side design. Emily Damstra created the design, which depicts an American bald eagle flying while carrying a single olive branch. Representing both peace and the American spirit, this design is one that closely resembles the spirit of the United States. The high level detail included on the reverse of the American Silver Eagle is unique; its talons, wings, and even its feathers are rendered in extreme intricacy.
While the new design departs from the traditional heraldic eagle that some investors have come to love over the last few decades, some collectors argue that the new series better represents the beauty and majesty of the United States’ signature animal.
Final Thoughts: Buying the American Silver Eagle Coin
Hero Bullion offers investors the opportunity to purchase both proof and bullion American Silver Eagle Coins. These coins are carefully packaged and shipped to ensure that your coins arrive with no damage, no scuffs and no chips. After all, an American Silver Eagle should always be shipped with maximal care to prevent any kind of damage.
With over 530,000,000 coins distributed to consumers since 1986, the American Silver Eagle is one of the most popular silver coins of all time. Whether you’re an investor looking to secure high quality silver coins or a history fan looking to cash-in on an impressive American tradition, the American Silver Eagle Coin is an unprecedented opportunity in the world of bullion.