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The American Silver Eagle

The American Silver Eagle is the official silver bullion coin of the United States. It was first minted in 1986 after the Liberty Coin Act was passed the previous year. It is popular in the United States and integral to the global precious metals market. Its beauty, government backing, and purity make it a favored choice among investors and collectors.

The American Silver Eagle coin is made with 1 troy ounce of 99.9% pure silver and has a $1 denomination backed by the U.S. government. It is alloyed with copper to improve its durability, giving it a total weight of 31.103 grams with .999 fine silver. The coin displays Adolph A. Weinman’s Walking Liberty design on the obverse. The reverse initially showed a heraldic eagle with a shield and thirteen stars. In 2021, the U.S. Mint changed the design to a bald eagle landing on a branch, designed by Emily Damstra.

American Silver Eagle Sizes

The American Silver Eagle is only produced as a 1-troy-ounce bullion coin, unlike the American Gold Eagle coin minted in fractional sizes. 1 oz of silver is cheaper than 1/10 oz of gold, making it feasible to mint fractional gold sizes and not fractional silver. The uniformity in size and weight is a hallmark of the Silver Eagle’s trustworthiness and representation of America’s commitment to quality and excellence in minting.

The United States Mint meticulously crafts each American Silver Eagle to meet strict quality standards. This consistency ensures that every ASE coin is recognized and valued the same way in markets worldwide, simplifying trading and valuation processes for investors and collectors.

American Silver Eagle Purchase Options

The United States Mint does not sell American Silver Eagle coins directly to the public. Instead, an exclusive list of companies, including APMEX, are authorized to buy precious metals from the mint and offer them directly to customers.

APMEX offers the ASE coins to customers exactly like they get them from the mint under our MintDirect® program. This program means if you order Silver Eagles in quantities of 20, 100, or 500, you will receive them unopened and unaltered, precisely how we received them from the mint. MintDirect® Singles are extracted straight from their tubes and encased in a secure polymer holder, accompanied by an authentication card. This process ensures each coin's condition and authenticity are preserved, as they are directly sourced from mint-sealed boxes.

Bulk Purchase Options

The U.S. Mint sends the American Silver Eagle to us in Monster Boxes containing 500 coins and mini monster boxes with 100 coins. They are placed in tubes containing 20 ASE coins or 20 troy ounces of .999 fine silver. Monster boxes and tubes allow investors to purchase American Eagle silver coins in bulk, reducing the overall cost of each coin. Investors can buy American Silver Eagles in either MintDirect® condition for a specific year or purchase monster boxes filled with 500 random year ASE coins.

American Silver Eagle Release Schedule

The U.S. Mint adheres to a yearly release schedule for the American Eagle silver coin, usually launching the latest edition in January. Pre-sales typically begin in October, although this timeline is not guaranteed.

This predictability of a yearly release aids investors and collectors in planning their acquisitions. The annual release includes both bullion and proof versions, with occasional special issues commemorating significant events or anniversaries. The U.S. Mint sometimes introduces limited mintage runs or special finishes, adding to the coin's collectible appeal.

With the release of each year’s ASE coin, older years often increase in value. This is because those older years will never be produced again, capping their mintage and creating scarcity. Collectors like to build a collection of each year of the American Silver Eagle, so when the older years are no longer being minted, only a limited number are available to complete those collections. The 2024 American Silver Eagles are now available, around 3% cheaper than the 2022 and 2023 versions. The 2021 Silver Eagle is even more expensive, showcasing the effect new releases have on the older version’s premiums.

American Silver Eagle Premiums

The premium you pay for bullion coins is the price over the precious metal's spot price. The premiums on American Eagle silver coins vary based on several factors, including minting costs, distribution fees, and market demand. Understanding these premiums is crucial for investors, as they can impact the overall cost and potential return on investment.

The premiums for American Silver Eagle coins have experienced significant fluctuations, especially during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Traditionally, ASE coins carried a slight premium over other silver coins. However, the pandemic caused a dramatic spike in these premiums, with Silver Eagle premiums at one point reaching $20 over the spot, nearly double that of other silver sovereign coins. This surge was partly due to the U.S. Mint's unique requirements for procuring silver blanks. These requirements increased demand and limited supply, resulting in historically high premiums.

Recently, the demand for Silver Eagles has subsided from these extreme levels, and the U.S. Mint has made efforts to secure its supply chain better, leading to a decrease in premiums. This easing of demand is not limited to Silver Eagles but extends to the broader bullion market, creating a buying opportunity for investors. It's important to note that the balance between supply and demand remains delicate. Future surge in demand could lead to another rise in premiums, making the current period a potentially attractive time for investing in American Silver Eagles.

Proof or burnished versions of the American Silver Eagle also carry higher premiums than the bullion release. This is due to the numismatic value placed on the unique versions beyond their precious metal value.

The ASE coins typically carry a higher premium than other silver bullion coins from foreign mints, such as the 1 oz Canadian Silver Maple Leaf or the 1 oz Silver Britannia from the Royal Mint. While American Silver Eagle coins may command slightly higher premiums than these other silver coins, they offer unique advantages for buyers. One such benefit is their eligibility for inclusion in a precious metals Individual Retirement Account (IRA), as they meet the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) standards required for such investments. However, adherence to specific conditions is necessary.

We advise consulting with a financial professional if considering this investment approach. Additionally, American Silver Eagle coins might provide certain tax advantages that bullion from foreign mints might not offer, and we recommend that our customers seek advice from their accountants to explore this possibility.

American Silver Eagle Collections

Collecting American Silver Eagles is a journey through the history of American minting. Collectors often seek to acquire a complete set, which includes a coin from each year of mintage. Collections containing each type (bullion, proof, and burnished) from a certain year are also popular. Special editions, like the anniversary issues or the "West Point" minted coins, add a layer of rarity and desirability. Some collectors focus on specific designations such as "early release" or "first day of issue,” which denote coins shipped from the mint within a specific time from the initial launch.

A complete set of 39 American Silver Eagles that includes each year from 1986-2023, including both Type 1 and Type 2 issues from 2021, is selling for a premium of over 100% over the spot price. This is proof that creating a complete set of American Silver Eagles has the potential to yield a good return on investment.

The hobby of collecting Silver Eagles is enriched by the diversity of the series, with variations in finishes and special marks providing a wide array of options for every level of collector.

Silver Eagle vs Silver Buffalo

The American Silver Eagle and the Silver Buffalo are popular silver bullion options, but their distinct differences affect their appeal to buyers. They have similar liquidity and contain one troy ounce of .999 fine silver, featuring iconic American coin designs.

The American Silver Eagle, backed by the U.S. government and produced by the U.S. Mint, has gained a reputation for security and reliability, making it an excellent investment choice. However, the cost of ASE coins has risen, partly due to the U.S. Mint's need to purchase blanks from a sole supplier, Sunshine Mint.

On the other hand, the Silver Buffalo rounds are not recognized as legal tender and are produced by various private mints across the country. This widespread production results in broader availability and lower costs than Silver Eagles. The Silver Buffalos feature the historic Indian Head Nickel design and are more affordable due to the absence of government mint premiums. However, this lack of official backing also means a higher risk of encountering counterfeit products, underscoring the importance of purchasing from reputable sources. Another difference is the availability of fractional Silver Buffalo rounds. While rare, mints produce ½, ¼, and 1/10 oz Silver Buffalo coins, while American Silver Eagle coins are only produced in 1 troy ounce.

Proof Silver Eagles

Proof Silver Eagles are a beautiful example of American coin craftsmanship. Proof American Silver Eagle coins undergo a meticulous minting process, distinct from regular coin production, to create coins with mirrored surfaces not present on standard releases. The process begins with coin blanks that are specially treated and polished to achieve a smooth, mirror-like finish. These blanks are then inserted into presses equipped with polished dies that have undergone a matte treatment, resulting in a frosted, sandblasted appearance. When the blank is struck by these dies under immense pressure, it captures the impression of the frosted dies, producing a coin with striking detail contrasted against the mirrored fields.

To enhance the details further, Proof Silver Eagle coins are struck twice. This double striking sharpens the intricacies of the design, a technique not employed in producing ordinary coins. Regular coins are struck using dies with standard finishes that do not impart special visual effects. They are struck only once, giving them a more pronounced, less refined appearance than the sharper, more sophisticated look of proof releases. Proof Silver Eagles also receive special handling and packaging, catering to collectors' preferences.

Proof American Eagle silver coins are coveted for their detailed presentation and flawless finish, transcending their inherent bullion value. They are produced in limited quantities, representing only a fraction of the bullion releases, and come with a certificate of authenticity. The limited production and rarity of proof coins enhance their collectible value, making them sought-after items in the numismatic community and potentially lucrative investments. Also, proof coins often have historical and artistic significance, appealing to collectors who appreciate each coin's rich heritage and craftsmanship.

Certified Silver Eagles

Purchasing certified coins is a popular choice among collectors and investors for several compelling reasons. Key among these is the assurance of authenticity, as coins are verified by reputable third-party grading services, mitigating the risk of counterfeits. Leading grading services like PCGS (Professional Coin Grading Service), NGC (Numismatic Guaranty Corporation), and CAC (Certified Acceptance Corporation) assess the coins based on their physical condition, assigning them a grade on the Sheldon Scale. After grading, they are encapsulated to protect the condition and ensure the authenticity of the American Silver Eagle.

The precise condition grading of these coins adds to their value and appeal, with higher-grade coins often fetching premium prices. These factors make certified coins a secure and lucrative component of a coin collection or investment portfolio. The certification process reassures collectors and investors of the coin's authenticity, quality, and potential for appreciation.

PCGS Certified Silver Eagles

PCGS (Professional Coin Grading Service) is renowned for its rigorous standards in numismatics, especially in certifying American Silver Eagles. Their process of authentication and grading instills confidence among collectors and investors. The encapsulation of a Silver Eagle by PCGS preserves its condition and assures its grade and authenticity, enhancing its market appeal.

PCGS also gives First Day of Issue and FirstStrike® designations to specific coins. The PCGS First Day of Issue designation is given to coins shipped from the U.S. Mint on their release day, while FirstStrike® marks those dispatched within the first thirty days. Collectors purchase First Day of Issue or FirstStrike® designated coins as they are perceived to be a part of the earliest minted coins and thought to have higher quality.

NGC Certified Silver Eagles

NGC (Numismatic Guaranty Company) is another pillar in coin grading and authentication. An NGC-graded coin means owning a piece backed by a guaranteed assessment of condition and authenticity. NGC's expert team carefully evaluates each Silver Eagle, and their encapsulation preserves the coin's condition over time.

NGC's unique designations include First Day of Issue and Early Release. A coin designated First Day of Issue is released from the mint on the first day of the launch. Early Release are coins shipped within the first thirty days of the release date. These designations suggest they are from the initial minting batch and, thus, of higher quality.

UCAM and DCAM

UCAM (Ultra Cameo) and DCAM (Deep Cameo) are terms for premium quality proof Silver Eagles. These coins exhibit an extreme contrast between their frosted designs and mirror-like backgrounds, enhancing their visual appeal. PCGS uses DCAM, while NGC uses UCAM for their graded coins. There is no physical difference between the types, indicating high-quality cameo effects. Investors should be confident knowing the difference between DCAM and UCAM lies solely in the third-party grading company that certified the coins.

CAC Certified Silver Eagles

CAC (Certified Acceptance Corporation) is known for its high grading standards, initially focusing on differentiating quality among coins of the same grade. In 2023, CAC began certifying coins directly, ensuring a Silver Eagle's grade meets their stringent criteria. CAC-approved coins often command a premium, offering unique value to collectors.

CAC uses the designations First Day of Delivery and First Delivery. First Day of Delivery are coins shipped on the first day of launch. Coins designated as First Delivery are shipped within the first thirty days of the newest release.

Grading Scale

The grading of Silver Eagles is a critical aspect for collectors and investors. The Sheldon Scale, ranging from 1 (poorest) to 70 (perfect), is the standard for grading coins. Coins graded at the higher end of this scale, especially those close to 70, are in near-perfect or perfect condition and thus command higher prices. Factors such as luster, strike, and flaws or blemishes are meticulously examined. This grading helps determine the coin's market value and aids collectors in making informed decisions about their purchases.

American Eagle silver coins given an MS-70 (PF-70 for proof versions) are flawless, exhibiting no blemishes. MS-69) PF-69 in proof versions) are just below, showing only minor imperfections under close observation. Imperfections are limited to hairline scratches or minuscule marks that may be hard to discern for the untrained eye.

Burnished Silver Eagles

Burnished Silver Eagles are unique in their finish and appeal. Introduced in 2006, the coin's 20th anniversary, these are struck on specially prepared planchets, giving them a distinctive matte-like finish that differs from the regular bullion and proof versions. The burnishing process involves gently polishing the coin blanks before they are struck, resulting in a soft, satin-like finish.

Burnished or uncirculated American Eagle silver coins carry a 'W' mintmark, denoting their production at the West Point Mint. Produced in limited quantities, burnished Silver Eagles are prized by collectors for their aesthetic appeal and rarity. The mintage of the burnished ASE coins is about half or less than the Proof versions, making them extremely rare. In 2022, the U.S. Mint produced 16,000,000 bullion Silver Eagles, 1,066,517 proof Silver Eagles, and only 199,533 burnished. Production of burnished gold and silver American Eagles was paused in 2009 and 2010, but production began again for the 2011 version.

American Silver Eagle Inception and Design

The American Silver Eagle, the official silver bullion coin of the United States, owes its existence to the Liberty Coin Act of 1985. The same Congress passed the Gold Bullion Act of 1985, creating the American Eagle coin series between the two pieces of legislation. The Silver Eagle was created to offer a convenient and tangible way for individuals to invest in precious metals while leveraging the country's vast silver reserves. It was also agreed that the design of the bullion coins could be changed every 25 years.

The design of the American Eagle silver coin is a blend of history and artistry. Since its first production in 1986, the obverse has featured the iconic "Walking Liberty" design by Adolph A. Weinman. The design was first used on the half-dollar coin in 1916 and is called the “Walking Liberty Half Dollar.” This image symbolizes freedom and liberty and is considered one of the most beautiful coin designs ever produced.

The original reverse design depicted a heraldic eagle behind a shield, grasping an olive branch in one talon and arrows in the other, with thirteen stars above the eagle. Created by John Mercanti, this is often referred to as the Type 1 design.

The Type 2 design of the American Silver Eagle was introduced in 2021. It features a landing bald eagle with an oak branch. The Type 2 design on the ASE coin was created by Emily Damstra and sculpted by the U.S. Mint artist Michael Gaudioso.

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