History of the Obverse Silver Eagle Design

The Silver American Eagle is one of the most prolific and successful bullion programs produced by the United States Mint. Silver American Eagles are widely popular and highly collected coins today but their significance is rooted in more than just the sales. There is historical significance to this coin and it starts with the obverse of the American Silver Eagle, designed by Adolph A. Weinman. 

This design, introduced on the Silver Eagle in 1986, was not the first time used in circulation. Weinman's Walking Liberty design was used during a time in which American coinage beauty was lacking. The Walking Liberty Half Dollar was minted between 1916 and 1947. The design was an instant hit with the public as a reminder of American ideals, opportunity and patriotism. "The American Eagle Silver coin's obverse design is Adolph A. Weinman's full-length figure of Liberty in full stride, enveloped in folds of the flag, with her right hand extended and branches of laurel and oak in her left." (U.S. Mint)  Many collectors and investors recognize the look as one of the most popular of its kind. To understand the importance of the American Eagle coins is to understand the importance of its designer and design. 

Facts About the Walking Liberty Design

  1. The Walking Liberty design was first used on half dollar coins from 1916 to 1947. Through the early part of the 1900s, President Theodore Roosevelt's goal was to bring beauty back to American coinage. Many designs were presented, while some were officially minted but met with public dissatisfaction. The Walking Liberty truly was successful in the endeavor to restore American coinage to greatness.
  2. The designer was chosen by the Commission of Fine Arts in 1916 to replace the Barber designs on the dime and half dollar. Weinman was up against two other sculptors and architects. Ultimately Weinman was selected because his design was unlike anything ever seen before. While controversy surrounded his Mercury Dime design, the Half Dollar was met with utmost popularity. During its run in circulation, the Walking Liberty Half Dollar was one of the most popular and highly collected even though it was difficult to strike.     
  3. Weinman worked and studied with famed sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Saint-Gaudens' most accomplished work was the Gold Double Eagle. In the middle of the Double Gold Eagle coin's circulation, the Walking Liberty Half Dollar made its debut, offering the public two glorious coin designs. Gold Eagle circulation stopped in 1933 following Executive Order 6102 when President Franklin Roosevelt ordered all Gold coins be returned to the Treasury. 
  4. Weinman is considered a medalist, not a coin designer. Though several people, even without numismatic experience, will not know the difference between a coin designer and a medalist, it is important to note Weinman's unique talents and abilities garnered him respect in both fields. His artistic talents also included architect, sculptor and designer.
  5. The Walking Liberty design was used again decades after its original circulation. The design was beloved in its day and was revived years later to echo the same sentiment in modern times. (USA Coin Book)

American Silver Eagles are a popular choice for investors and collectors, but their history is one that must be explored to better understand and appreciate their significance today. APMEX carries a large selection of American Silver Eagles, from current editions to backdated sets. 


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