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HomeUS Coins1986-S American Silver Eagle Proof : A Collector's Guide

1986-S American Silver Eagle Proof : A Collector’s Guide

1986-S American Silver Eagle Proof. Image: CoinWeek / Adobe Stock.
1986-S American Silver Eagle Proof. Image: CoinWeek / Adobe Stock.

The United States entered the bullion coin business when Congress authorized the production of .999 fine silver coins with the passage of the Liberty Coin Act, signed into law by President Ronald Reagan on July 9, 1985.

Legislators saw the program as a means to draw down the nation’s silver stockpile while providing investors with a high-quality bullion coin that would compete against the Mexican Libertad and the gold coin would compete against the Canadian Maple Leaf and the soon-to-be embargoed South African Krugerrand.

In addition to the bullion issues, the law authorized the issue of Proof versions of the coins, which the United States Mint marketed to collectors.

The obverse of the American Silver Eagle featured an updated version of Adolph Weinman’s Liberty Walking half-dollar design of 1916-1947. The reverse featured a bold heraldic eagle motif designed by U.S. Mint Chief Engraver John Mercanti. In Mercanti’s 2012 book American Silver Eagles: A Guide to the U.S. Bullion Coin Program, the engraver wrote that he didn’t want a flying or soaring eagle but “wanted something more formal; more heraldic.”

The first coins struck rolled off Coin Press 105 at the United States Assay Office in San Francisco on October 29, 1986. Demand for both the bullion strike and the Proof issue was overwhelming.

At an issue price of $21 USD ($59.09 adjusted for inflation in 2024 dollars), the United States Mint produced 1,446,778 coins. This total remains the high water mark for Proof issues even as the series approaches its 40th year.

The 1986-S American Silver Eagle Proof features an S mintmark and will typically exhibit Deep Cameo frost on the devices and mirror-like surfaces in the fields. Coins that have been well taken care of will appear fresh and new. Coins may also exhibit various degrees of toning. This toning is sometimes attractive and will enhance the coin’s value. Unattractive toning, on the other hand, usually lowers a coin’s value.

What Is the 1986-S American Silver Eagle Proof Coin Worth?

The size of the certified population of 1986-S American Silver Eagles has nearly doubled over the course of the past 10 years. At the start of 2014, the coin’s total certified population stood at 57,664 coins; today that number sits at 104,512, or roughly 10% of the total mintage.

In Proof 69 Deep Cameo, the 1986-S American Silver Eagle has a retail value of about $75. When you take inflation into count, this is slightly less than what the coin routinely traded for 10 years ago. The price of Proof issues has held steadily over that time and today an example sells for about $350.

The market for Proof 70 Deep Cameo coins has changed dramatically since 2014. In that year, NGC held a nearly 3:1 advantage over PCGS in the number of 1986-S Proof Silver Eagles certified. Two years later, PCGS wiped out NGC’s lead. As of February 2024, The PCGS Proof-70 Deep Cameo population is 40% higher than NGC’s, with 11,107 coins graded 70 by PCGS and 7,877 graded Proof-70 Ultra Cameo by NGC.

CAC, a new grading service, reports a total of 63 1986-S American Silver Eagles in its census. All but one of them are graded Proof-70 Deep Cameo.

The retail price for Proof-70 Deep Cameo coins from any of the three major services is about $350.

Design

Obverse:

Sculptor Adolph A. Weinman’s Lady Liberty is depicted mid-stride. She is seen as a full-body figure, dressed in a flowing gown, and draped with a large billowing American flag. She holds laurel and oak branches in her left hand that symbolize the civil and military glories of America, respectively. As Liberty strides confidently towards the rising sun, she also reaches out and presents a welcoming and open hand. So large is Lady Liberty that she is superimposed over the obverse legend LIBERTY ringing the obverse – in fact, she obscures half of the “BE” and almost the entire “R”. Above Liberty’s outstretched rear foot is IN GOD WE TRUST, and below her is the date (1986).

The design bears a notable resemblance to sculptor Oscar Roty’s The Sower, a common image on French coins. Numismatist Roger Burdette posited in his book Renaissance of American Coinage (2007) that this was not a coincidence and while Adolph Weinman did not directly copy, he did derive significant inspiration from Roty’s work. Weinman’s Liberty Walking design quickly became one of America’s most iconic numismatic images and would be used with minor modifications on the American Silver Eagle bullion coin starting in 1986.

Reverse:

United States Mint Chief Engraver John M. Mercanti’s Heraldic Eagle is positioned at the center of the reverse. Clutched in its beak is a ribbon that bears the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM. Above its head, is a constellation of 13 stars configured in an upside-down pyramid formation. Wrapping around the design is the legend (top) UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and the fineness and denomination (bottom) 1 OZ. FINE SILVER. ONE DOLLAR.

Edge:

The edge of the 1986 American Silver Eagle Proof coin is reeded.

Coin Specifications

American Silver Eagle Proof Coin
Year Of Issue: 1986
Denomination: One Dollar (USD)
Mint Mark: S (San Francisco)
Mintage: 1,446,778
Alloy: 99.9% silver
Weight: 31.1 g
Diameter: 40.6 mm
Edge: Reeded
OBV Designer Adolph A. Weinman
REV Designer John M. Mercanti

 

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Learn about the 1987-S American Silver Eagle Proof

CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes presents expert analysis and insights from Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker, the award-winning editors of CoinWeek.com.

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2 COMMENTS

    • Any grade below PR69DCAM on an American Silver Eagle should be avoided, as 69s are ubiquitous. Most raw coins in original capsules will grade 69.

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