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Silver American Eagle Coins (Proof & Burnished)

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American Silver Eagles

The American Silver Eagle (ASE) was first issued in 1986 following the enactment of the Liberty Coin Act. Its attractiveness and high purity level make it highly regarded domestically and internationally within the precious metals market. The silver coin is backed by the U.S. government and is considered the official silver bullion coin of the United States.

The American Silver Eagle is constructed with one troy ounce of 99.9% pure silver and has a legal tender of $1, but its silver content is worth much more. It includes a small amount of copper to enhance its durability, resulting in a total mass of 31.103 grams of .999 fine silver. The coin features the iconic Walking Liberty design by Adolph A. Weinman on its front. Initially, the reverse depicted a heraldic eagle with a shield and thirteen stars. In 2021, the U.S. Mint updated the reverse to an image of a bald eagle descending onto a branch, a design created by Emily Damstra.

Proof Silver Eagles

Proof versions of the American Silver Eagles demonstrate the artistry and sophistication of American coin minting. These coins are created through a detailed process distinct from that used for standard coins, featuring mirrored backgrounds not found on regular issues. The process starts with specially treated and polished coin blanks to ensure a flawless, mirror-like surface. These blanks are then placed into presses fitted with dies that have been polished and given a matte finish, achieving a frosted, sandblasted look. When struck under high pressure, these dies imprint their frosted design onto the blank, resulting in coins with a vivid contrast between the detailed designs and the mirrored fields.

Proof Silver Eagles are struck multiple times to enhance the design details further. The repeated striking process refines the design details, a technique not used for ordinary coin production. Standard coins, in contrast, are minted with normal finish dies and struck once, which results in a bolder but less intricate appearance compared to the detailed look of proof coins.

Proof American Eagle silver coins are highly valued for their impeccable presentation and pristine finish, going beyond mere bullion value. They are minted in limited numbers, representing a small portion of total bullion production, and each comes with a certificate of authenticity. Their limited availability and the rarity of the proof versions add to their appeal, making them attractive to numismatists and investors.

Burnished Silver Eagles

Burnished Silver Eagles stand out due to their unique finish and visual appeal. Launched in 2006 to mark the 20th anniversary of the American Silver Eagle, burnished coins are produced using specially prepared planchets that lend them a matte-like appearance, distinct from the standard bullion and proof varieties. The burnishing process polishes the coin blanks gently before they are minted, giving them a soft, satin finish.

The 'W' mintmark on Burnished or uncirculated American Eagle silver coins indicates their manufacture at the West Point Mint. These coins are issued in limited numbers and are highly sought after by collectors due to their beauty and scarcity. The production numbers for burnished ASE coins are typically about half or less compared to their proof counterparts, adding to their exclusivity. For example, in 2022, while the U.S. Mint issued 16,000,000 bullion Silver Eagles and 1,066,517 proof Silver Eagles, only 199,533 were burnished. Notably, the production of burnished gold and silver American Eagles was suspended in 2009 and 2010, resuming with the 2011 issue.

American Silver Eagle Premiums

The premium on bullion coins is the amount charged over the base metal's spot price. These premiums can vary for American Eagle silver coins due to factors like minting costs, distribution fees, and market demand. Understanding these premiums is crucial for investors as it affects the overall investment cost and potential returns.

During and following the COVID-19 pandemic, the premiums on American Silver Eagle (ASE) coins saw substantial shifts. Typically, ASE coins had a moderate premium compared to other silver coins. The pandemic triggered a significant increase, with premiums on Silver Eagles soaring to $20 above spot—almost double the premium of other sovereign silver coins. This spike was influenced partly by the U.S. Mint's specific requirements for acquiring silver blanks, which heightened demand and constricted supply, pushing premiums to historic highs.

Recently, demand for Silver Eagles has moderated. The U.S. Mint has improved its supply chain management, leading to reduced premiums. This drop in demand affects not just Silver Eagles but also the broader bullion market, presenting a potential investment opportunity. Still, the balance of supply and demand remains fragile, and any future increase in demand could drive premiums up again, making the current market a favorable time for purchasing American Silver Eagles.

Proof and burnished versions of the American Silver Eagle command higher premiums than the standard bullion version due to their added numismatic value. Comparatively, ASE coins generally have higher premiums than other international silver bullion coins like the 1 oz Canadian Silver Maple Leaf or the 1 oz Silver Britannia.

Silver Eagle Release Schedule

The U.S. Mint maintains a consistent annual release schedule for the American Eagle silver coin. They typically unveil the newest version in January. Pre-sales often start in October, though this schedule can vary.

This regularity in release helps investors and collectors strategically plan their purchases. Each year’s release features bullion and proof versions, and occasionally, the Mint issues special editions to mark important events or milestones.

With each new release of the ASE coin, earlier editions generally appreciate due to their finite production. Once the mint ceases production of a particular year's coin, its availability becomes limited, increasing scarcity and appeal. Collectors often aim to acquire a coin from each year of issue, and the scarcity of older coins can drive up their value. The 2024 American Silver Eagles are selling at prices about 3% lower than those from 2022 and 2023. Meanwhile, the 2021 edition is even more costly, illustrating how new releases can influence the premiums of older coins.

American Silver Eagle Creation and Design

The American Silver Eagle, designated as the official silver bullion coin of the United States, was established under the Liberty Coin Act of 1985. This act and the Gold Bullion Act of the same year initiated the American Eagle coin series. The Silver Eagle was conceived to facilitate the public's investment in precious metals, utilizing the nation's substantial silver reserves. Additionally, Congress decided that the design of these bullion coins could change every 25 years.

Since its inaugural minting in 1986, the American Silver Eagle’s obverse has displayed Adolph A. Weinman’s revered "Walking Liberty" design. This design was originally featured on the 1916 half-dollar coin, known as the "Walking Liberty Half Dollar." It embodies the ideals of freedom and liberty and is often celebrated as one of history's most splendid coin designs.

The initial reverse design showcased a heraldic eagle behind a shield, clutching an olive branch and arrows, with thirteen stars positioned above. This imagery, crafted by John Mercanti, is commonly called the Type 1 design.

Introduced in 2021, the Type 2 design on the American Silver Eagle presents a bald eagle descending with an oak branch in its talons. This newer design was created by Emily Damstra and sculpted by U.S. Mint artist Michael Gaudioso, adding a contemporary touch while maintaining the coin's symbolic essence.

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