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Widely regarded as one of the most beautiful silver coins in the entire world, the Silver Eagle is also among the most stable silver coins around. After all, it is America’s official silver coin.
With a unique combination of classic design features and high availability, US Mint Silver Eagles hold a special place in the hearts of precious metal investors and collectors in the United States and around the world.
The first American Silver Eagle coin was struck on October 29, 1986, and released on November 24 of the same year. In the initial year, the US Mint struck around 5.4 million bullion and over 1.4 million proof coins. The first uncirculated coins were released in 2006. Silver Eagle remains in production as one of the most popular silver coins ever made.
The coin was introduced in the same year as the American Gold Eagle, within a year since the adoption of the Gold Bullion Act of 1985. The first coin was struck in San Francisco with then-Secretary of the Treasury James A. Baker III presiding over the striking ceremony. It has since been struck at only two other major US mints: Philadelphia and West Point.
Over the years, US Mint Silver Eagles have been produced in large quantities, with over 500 million coins struck by the end of 2018. Around 505 million are bullion coins, 21 million proof coins, and 4 million uncirculated silver dollar coins. The Silver Eagle was authorized by Title II of Public Law.
The peak year for bullion coin production was 2015, which saw 47 million coins struck within the calendar year. The highest production of proof coins, 1.44 million, came in 1986. Since then, 2006 was the only year that exceeded a million proof coins. Finally, the mintage of uncirculated Silver Eagles peaked in 2007 at 621,333.
All US Mint Silver Eagles are 1-troy ounce silver coins with 99.9% purity. The coins measure 40.6mm in diameter and 2.98mm in thickness. The edge is reeded.
The coin is famous for its “Walking Liberty” motif on the obverse and heraldic eagle on the reverse. The design of the obverse was taken from the Walking Liberty Half Dollar coin which was in circulation from 1916 to 1947. The Adolph A. Weinman design features a portrayal of Lady Liberty in motion and a sun in the background, complete with the inscriptions “LIBERTY” and “IN GOD WE TRUST”. The year of issuance is recorded beneath Lady Liberty’s feet.
A heraldic eagle with a front shield dominates the reverse. The eagle’s wings are spread and it holds in its beak a banner that reads “E PLURIBUS UNUM.” Additional inscriptions include “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, 1 OZ. FINE SILVER-ONE DOLLAR,” and a discretionary mintmark. Thirteen five-pointed stars above the eagle’s head represent the original 13 colonies at the founding of the United States of America in 1776. The reverse side of the coin was designed by John Mercanti in 1986.
There are three major varieties of the Silver Eagle – bullion, proof, and uncirculated.
Bullion Silver Eagles have been in constant production since late 1986. The production fluctuated greatly over the years, which saw the lowest volumes in the mid-1990s. Since then, the production has increased manifold.
All the while, the Silver Eagle remains popular and among the most beloved and sought-after silver coins in the US market. It owes its popularity in part to Americans who fund their Individual Retirement Accounts with American Silver Eagle bullion coins.
Bullion coins of both the Silver and Gold Eagle are not available to the general public. Only a small number of “authorized purchasers” can buy them for resale to interested parties. They are sold in bulk, with a premium of $2.00 per coin above the spot price of silver.
The initial production of proof coins began in 1986 and ended in 2008. Production resumed in 2010 and continued to 2015. Unlike the bullion coins, proof coins were directly available to the general public.
All Silver Eagle proof coins come in a protective plastic case with a certificate of authenticity. Each coin bears the mark of the mint where it was struck. P for Philadelphia, W for West Point, and S for San Francisco.
It wasn’t until the US Mint Silver Eagle’s 20th anniversary that the uncirculated variety was introduced. The initial run lasted until 2008. The coin was reintroduced in 2011 and remained in production until 2015.
Numerous special issues were minted over the years. The most significant ones include:
Traditionally, US Mint Silver Eagles are highly prized among both collectors and investors. Despite, and perhaps because of, the huge quantities in circulation, the Silver Eagle remains the number one silver coin in the United States.
The value of the coin depends on availability and mintage year. Older and rarer coins command higher prices, which makes the newer ones more affordable.
There are three ways to buy Silver Eagle coins: single coins, tubes, and monster boxes. Singles are the easiest way to get started as they require the smallest investment. Tubes represent a significant step-up, while monster boxes are reserved for serious investors and traders.
Premiums are not as high as they are for gold coins, so Silver Eagles may suit the frugal investor in more ways than one.
All in all, the Silver Eagle is perhaps the safest way to start investing in silver coins. It is widely available and increases in intrinsic value with years (in a way that’s separate than the exchange prices of silver). You can both park your wealth in and diversify your investment portfolio with Silver Eagles. Finally, you can use your IRA to invest in Silver Eagle coins.
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