Type 1 Versus Type 2 Silver Eagles

Posted - March 15, 2022
Type 1 Versus Type 2 Silver Eagles

For decades, the American Silver Eagle has been among the most revered coins on the bullion market. Its design is classically American; the majestic American Bald Eagle decorates one side while Lady Liberty walks on the other. The United States Mint produces a limited number of these coins each year, making their release an extremely anticipated event. Even considering this history of exceptional popularity, 2021 has been an unprecedented year for global interest in the American Silver Eagle. 

If 2021 is the year of the Silver Eagle, there is one major reason why. This year marks the first year that bullion enthusiasts can get their hands on the brand-new Type 2 Silver Eagle. Rumors of the Type 2 American Silver Eagle have persisted for years, but the U.S. Mint only recently released images of the all-new designs and security features of the beloved, classic American coin. Don’t worry; even the new reverse side still features a beautiful American Bald Eagle. And yes, Lady Liberty still walks on the obverse of the Type 2 Silver Eagle. 

But there are a few key differences between the Type 1 and Type 2 Silver Eagles that you should know about. While both versions of the U.S. Mint’s most popular coin are valuable collectible items, we always recommend that investors research extensively before deciding on the coin that’s best for them. 

Keep reading for a detailed analysis of the differences between the Type 1 and the Type 2 American Silver Eagle. 

What are Silver Eagles?

The American Silver Eagle is known as the United States Mint’s official silver coin. This demarcation is nothing to scoff at. Every government mint has its own official coin, and these bullion pieces provide a level of value and consistent collectability that is tough to match. Compared to other official government coins – such as the Silver Britannia – the American Silver Eagle is relatively new. The U.S. Mint unveiled the American Silver Eagle in 1986 and the coin has been released once yearly ever since. 

American Silver Eagle coins generally contain one troy ounce of 99.9% silver bullion. The obverse side includes a depiction of Lady Liberty walking into a setting sun. The reverse depicts a version of the American Bald Eagle. While the original Type 1 Silver Eagle featured the Heraldic Eagle of the United States, the newly released Type 2 shows the Bald Eagle flying with an olive branch in its talons. 

History of the Silver Eagle

While the minted history of the Silver Eagle technically begins in 1986, the real history of the coin goes all the way back to 1916, when Adolph A. Weinman first created the ‘Walking Liberty’ design that the coins feature even today. The design was first featured on the Walking Liberty Half Dollar – another classic American bullion coin. The exceptional popularity of Walking Lady Liberty made her inclusion on the American Silver Eagle a no-brainer. The Silver Eagle was originally released in front of an audience in a highly publicized striking ceremony. 

At the time, the Secretary of the Treasury was James A. Baker III. During the ceremony, he delivered a famous line to his audience: 

“I don’t need a pick and shovel to start the San Francisco Silver Rush of 1986.”

Baker couldn’t have been more correct. The coin was an immediate success and has enjoyed an unprecedented level of popularity for over three decades. According to the U.S. Mint, 2021 sales for the American Silver Eagle exceeded 2020’s sales by over 800,000. The history of the Silver Eagle’s popularity is largely linked to public interest in bullion as a hedge against financial uncertainty. During the 2008 recession, the public’s obsession with the Silver Eagle briefly exploded. 

And now, as Americans grapple with the financial and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems that the Silver Eagle might be due for yet another resurgence in popularity and sales. 

Silver Eagle Type 1

The American Silver Eagle Type 1 was the original coin in this beloved series. As mentioned, the coin was first unveiled at a public ceremony presided over by Treasury Secretary James A. Baker III. The coin features an obverse design of Walking Liberty. Adolph A. Weinman is credited with the design, which he originally created for the Walking Liberty Half Dollar in 1916. The word “Liberty” is emblazoned at the top of this side of the coin. Lady Liberty wears a flowing gown and carries a bundle of olive branches. She walks toward a rising sun. 

On the reverse, the Type 1 features the Heraldic Eagle, a classic American symbol typically associated with our government. Banners on each wing of the eagle display our country’s motto, E Pluribus Unum, or “out of many, one.” Over the body of the eagle is the shield of the United States. One of the eagle’s talons holds a bundle of arrows, while the other holds an olive branch. Another example of this coin’s symbolism, this depiction invokes the United States’ dual commitment to peace and strength. 

Thirteen stars rest in a triangle shape at the top of this side of the coin. For fans of U.S. history, it should come as no surprise that these stars represent the original thirteen colonies. Each Type 1 Silver Eagle contains 1.0 Troy Ounce of .9999 (99.9%) pure silver bullion.

Silver Eagle Type 2

The most significant change in the Type 2 American Silver Eagle happens on the reverse side. While this revised design still includes the classic iconography of the American Bald Eagle, the Type 2 features the eagle in motion. Now, the eagle flies forward, landing on a branch with its wings fully extended. The design also reaches the borders of the coin, meaning that its left wing extends all the way to the end of the coin. The detail on this reverse side depiction is exceptional; onlookers can appreciate the textured details of each feature on the majestic American Bald Eagle’s body. 

While the changes are most obvious on the reverse, even the classic Walking Liberty design of the Type 2’s obverse enjoys a pleasant makeover. Most notable is the increased level of detail given to this version of the American Silver Eagle. Lady Liberty’s bonnet and her visible eye is given increased attention, a change which pays homage to the original sculpted design of the icon. The flag she carries on her back now includes increased detail and texture. Even the rays of sunshine in the bottom corner of the piece have been given a makeover. 

In another respectful tribute to the original 1916 Walking Liberty Half Dollar design, the 2021 Type 2 Silver Eagle’s ‘2021’ engraving is intentionally designed to resemble the antique font of its predecessor. 

The Type 2 design also brings with it a host of new security measures. In fact, some bullion experts have speculated that a major reason behind the Silver Eagle Type 2’s release has been pressure from the international community to provide better counterfeiting assurances. On the Type 2 design, the mint has provided one major new security protocol. The U.S. Mint removed a single reed from the coin. While this might not seem like a big deal, it throws a major wrench in the plans of would-be counterfeiters. 

Which Silver Eagle is Better?

This is a common question. Collectors all over the world want to know which of the American Silver Eagle designs are better to collect. Unfortunately, there are no clear-cut answers on this front. Some collectors are likely to prefer the original design to this newer version, but many collectors are beyond excited to get their hands on the brand new American Silver Eagle Type 2. Still, there are a few important considerations you should keep in mind when deciding whether to buy the American Silver Eagle Type 2 or Type 1. 

First, the designs are worth considering. Some investors might automatically assume that the newer design is better than the original. While the detail on the new design certainly has its appeal, there is also quite a bit of value in the traditional, almost antique-like design of older versions of the coin. After all, there’s a reason why collectors tend to go crazy for old collectable coins from the United States Mint. We recommend taking a close look at the design changes. Luckily, the U.S. Mint website has made it easy to compare the Type 1 to the Type 2. The sales page for the Type 2 allows collectors to compare each major change. 

The security-oriented changes from the Type 1 to the Type 2 are also worth considering. Any investor who has been around the bullion community for years should know the importance of avoiding counterfeit coins. While the American Silver Eagle is far from being the most commonly counterfeited coin from the U.S. Mint, counterfeits certainly still exist. The 2021 American Silver Eagle Type 2 includes a single missing reed underneath the second “2” in “2021.” 

This change provides relatively significant protection against counterfeits, and it also makes it quite a bit easier for cautious investors to ensure that their new Silver Eagle is legit. Additionally, the increased detail on both sides of the American Silver Eagle Type 2 means that counterfeiters will struggle to make a convincing double of this valuable piece. 

Aside from these differences, it really comes down to personal preferences. If you’re in love with the older design of the Type 1 and don’t mind a lack of major security features, then the legacy version might be right for you. If you prefer a moving eagle to a stationary one, or if you care about security features, then go for the Type 2. 

Either way, you’re buying a beautiful coin with a rich American history. This is a choice where you really cannot go wrong. 

How to Spot Fake Silver Eagles

Let’s start with the basics. Every American Silver Eagle should have an identical diameter. If you have a coin that is too large or too small, then it’s a counterfeit Silver Eagle. Comparing a legitimate coin to a potential fake allows you to immediately determine whether the new coin is legit. According to some sources, more and more fake American Silver Eagles are spotted each year. We strongly recommend taking a closer look at any silver coin you purchase to avoid being scammed. 

If you’re wondering about the legitimacy of a Type 2 American Silver Eagle, however, spotting a fake has never been easier. One good place to start looking is in the details. Compare your coin’s details to the details on the coin depicted in the U.S. Mint’s website. Even a minor error in the angle of a single feather can tip a savvy collector off that they’re dealing with a counterfeit. 

If all else fails, check the reeds on the Type 2. Like we explained in the section above, an authentic American Silver Eagle Type 2 includes a unique element: a single missing reed under the “2021.” If your Type 2 includes reeds all the way around, then you’re dealing with a fake. 

Final Thoughts: Which Version Should You Collect?

As with many coin design updates, the devil is in the details. A closer look at the Type 2 reveals that it isn’t just the reverse-side design that has won an update. The American Silver Eagle Type 2 is more detailed on both the obverse and the reverse. Even the feathers on the back of the stunning American Bald Eagle are rendered in greater detail on the Type 2, and Lady Liberty herself is depicted in as much detail as the designers could manage. 

An increased level of assurance against counterfeiting is also included in the American Silver Eagle Type 2. For collectors who want to make absolutely sure that they aren’t being scammed with a false coin, the Type 2 is an exceptional option. 

Whether you choose to go with the Type 1 or the Type 2 coin, you’re buying into a classic American tradition – and a staple of the global bullion market. 

About The Author

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Hero Bullion provides an environment that is informative and safe for those looking to own physical gold and silver bullion as an investment. We love helping folks at all stages throughout their bullion journey making progress towards acheiving their financial goals. Whether you are a seasoned bullion investor or brand new to the game of gold and silver bullion ownership, we're here to help and serve you in any way we can.