Silver Eagles (1986-)
The American Eagle coin program came about after private Gold ownership was reinstituted in the United States. Starting in 1986 with the Gold and Silver Eagle, these coins have been a staple of U.S. Mint offerings ever since and a favorite among both coin collectors and investors.
Silver Eagle Design
The American Eagle coin program came about after private Gold ownership was reinstituted in the United States. Prior to this point, from the time of President Franklin Roosevelt’s Executive Order 6192 in 1933, private Gold ownership had been banned. There were some few exceptions — Gold coins with numismatic value were exempt, and industrial gold and jewelry was allowed. Up to five ounces of Gold bullion coins were allowed for each person. But such restrictions were severe and had the effect of drastically curtailing U.S. private gold holdings.
President Gerald Ford lifted these restrictions on December 31, 1974, and soon after that point the U.S. Mint began exploring programs to offer Treasury-owned Precious Metals to the public. The first of these was the failed American Arts Gold medallion program, which ran from 1980 to 1984. In 1985 Congress passed a law allowing for the striking of Gold coins, followed rapidly by another act authorizing Silver. 1986 saw the first new Eagle bullion coins minted, with Gold and Silver to start. Platinum was first struck in 1997 and Palladium in 2017.
The Silver Eagle is a coin with a nominal face value of one dollar that is made of one troy ounce of 99.9% Fine Silver. There are bullion, proof and uncirculated versions available. The obverse uses the famous Liberty Walking design by Adolph Weinman, used on the half dollar from 1916 to 1947. The reverse is a heraldic eagle designed by John Mercanti.
Plans for the Silver Eagle came about because the Defense National Stockpile had been growing to a point where there was no strategic need for that much Silver. Efforts to sell it impacted mining interests, and the government could not break the deadlock. Finally the Liberty Coin Act of June 21, 1985 authorized a bullion coin. The Silver originally came from the stockpile until 2002, when other sources were authorized.
These bullion coins were originally struck at the Philadelphia mint, but have been struck at the West Point Mint since 2000 for bullion strikes, with proofs following in 2001. Burnished coins were added in 2006. Bullion coins were added to the San Francisco mint in 2012.
The American Eagle was a watershed point for bullion coins, and since the Gold and Silver Eagles were created there have been quite a few more issues of bullion — not just in the United States, but around the world.
Eagle coins were created for their bullion value, not the numismatic value, but there are some coins that have numismatic value. The 1995-W proof is a key date for Silver Eagles as well as the regular issue for the 1996 Silver Eagle.
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