A Silver Eagle Starts Soaring

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Silver Eagle Coins

Silver Eagle

Imagine, for a second, a McDonald’s or a Wendy’s without the bun.

Wouldn’t be the same really, would it?

It’s the same for any serious collector of United States Mint bullion coins who doesn’t have a proof Silver Eagle or two.

Along with golden Canadian Maple Leafs, American Gold Eagles and South African Krugerrands, Silver Eagles are easily one of the most recognized and popular bullion coins in the world.

The reason for the instant recognition of this iconic silver bullion coin is its design.

Although this coin started life in the mid-1980s, the design for the initial uncirculated Silver Eagle goes back to when a designer called Adolph A. Weinman sculpted “Liberty in full stride, enveloped in the folds of the flag, with her right hand extended and branches of laurel and oak in her left.

This was in 1916 when President Theodore Roosevelt was looking around for new designs for the half dollar and the dime. The Commission of Fine Arts held open competitions to find something which reflected something more beautiful and striking than the existing designs. Of all the ideas submitted, the Commission eventually had to decide between Weinman and two other designs by a sculptor and an architect.

And the winner is …

The commission chose Weinman’s sheer mastery of the subject. It was the originality of the piece he created over the other submissions.

Of the two coins, the design for the dime was not so well received. He created a side view of Liberty wearing a cap commonly found in the Balkans and Eastern Europe. This made the figure looks like the Roman god Mercury and with it came connotations of junk silver from previous states mint coinage designs. This dime was minted in vast numbers between 1916 and 1945. It has since become a collector’s piece in its own right.

With the half dollar though, Weinman hit the spot.

The public loved the coin from the start because of the symbolism and sheer radiance of its subject. It remained a favorite until 1947 when it was withdrawn from circulation.

Roll forward to 1982, and the Defence National Stockpile Centre. This is the government department responsible for sourcing, buying and keeping precious metals and rare earth substances for use in military applications, electronics, and special projects. It found that it had a large silver surplus on its hands. The silver price was good. The Reagan Administration decided that it could use this excess silver to launch a new series of bullion coins.

They called their new eagle bullion coin the American Silver Eagle.

Discussions took place about the design for the obverse of the new coin. The front of the coin being a bald eagle behind a shield. Someone on the panel suggested the American Silver Eagles follow the design of the old Weinman half dollar coin. This was not just to save money during manufacture. It was also a nod to one of the most famous and emblematic coins ever produced by the US Mint.

They’re off

The first of the new Silver Eagles were struck at the San Francisco Mint towards the end of 1986.

These silver bullion coins contain one troy ounce of 99.9% pure silver. They are marked as being “one dollar” in value. However, the silver price, even at launch, exceeded this face value. There has always been a premium paid on Silver Eagle coins.

The silver bullion coin version has no mint mark – this despite the 1986 to 1998 coins being produced at the San Francisco Mint, and those from 1999 to 2000 at West Point and Philadelphia mints.

The proof silver coins do have mint marks, and San Francisco Mint is represented by the letter “S,” West Point by the letter “W,” and the Philadelphia by the letter “P.”

For a couple of years (from 2006 to 2008, and 2011) the West Point Mint struck a special uncirculated silver American Eagle – San Francisco also produced one for the 25th anniversary of the coin in 2011.

Throughout the life of the coin, there have been special issues from time to time. These commemorate major events in history and the life of the United States. They have been struck in limited numbers and proved popular with collectors and investors in American Eagle coins.

There are a vast number of variations and different versions of Eagle bullion coins for collectors to get excited about. Just collecting Silver Eagles would create enough interest and curiosity to keep anyone engrossed for years.

Like those burgers – there is always a different modification or version to savor.

Charles Thorngren

Charles Thorngren

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About Me

The Morgan Silver Dollar is an essential part of American History. The first was released in 1878 and became an immediate success. We have sourced 3 different versions of this iconic coin. These will be an investment as well as a family heirloom for generations to come.

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