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HomeUS Coins1988-S Proof American Silver Eagle : A Collector's Guide

1988-S Proof American Silver Eagle : A Collector’s Guide

1988-S American Silver Eagle Proof. Image: CoinWeek / Stack's Bowers.
1988-S American Silver Eagle Proof. Image: CoinWeek / Stack’s Bowers.

The same year that the American Silver Eagle Proof coin debuted, the United States Mint had a runaway hit with the Statue of Liberty Centennial Commemorative Coin Program. The Statue of Liberty Proof silver dollar sold 6,925,627 pieces, while the clad half dollar sold 6,414,638. Demand for these collector coins was more than five times higher than for the Proof version of America’s first silver bullion coin. Today, collector enthusiasm is clearly more in the Silver Eagle camp.

When the Mint produced the 1988-S American Silver Eagle Proof, the modern commemorative craze was waning. Collectors purchased only 1,359,366 Proof examples of the rather uninspired 1988 Seoul Olympiad commemorative. Meanwhile, the 1988-S American Silver Eagle Proof sold 557,370 pieces. This figure was a far cry from the 1986 demand, but the half-million sales number would more-or-less continue through 1992. Because of the care taken in producing these coins, the Mint had successfully established a sizable collector base for its annual silver Proof coin.

The U.S. Mint offered the 1988-S American Silver Eagle Proof for sale at $23. Adjusted for inflation, this comes to about $60 in 2024 dollars. The price of silver at the start of 1988 was about $6.80. The metal would peak at $8.00 at the end of July before retreating to $6.00 at the end of the year. Collectors in 1988 were okay with paying the Mint’s stiff surcharge.

What Is the 1988-S American Silver Eagle Proof Coin Worth?

Ten years ago, the typical 1988-S American Silver Eagle sold for about $50 in Proof 69 Deep Cameo/Ultra Cameo. This was a slight premium over the prices sellers were getting for the same coin in Original Government Packaging. $50 in 2013 money is equivalent to $66 in today’s money. Using that as our measuring stick, we see that the 1988-S American Silver Eagle has essentially held its value in the Proof 69 (OGP) grade. The date is a steady seller, and the certified population at this level has increased by 13,821 pieces since March 2014.

The population of Proof 70s has also increased. From 2013 to 2014, PCGS added 287 Proof 70s to its pop report. In the 10 years since, it has added, on average, 254 coins per year. As of this publication, the PCGS population stands at 3,780. Interestingly, this is a ratio of 2.56 70s to one 69 (Through 2014, that ratio was 9:1).

NGC reportd the much lower population of 842 Proof 70s in 2014; today, that number has grown to 3,095. In real terms, the difference between the two grading services is negligible.

CAC, a new grading service reports only eight coins in its census – all Proof 70s.

So, how much is a Proof 70 1988-S American Silver Eagle Proof worth in 2024?

CoinWeek reviewed over 50 prices realized on the leading online auction websites. What this data shows will surprise you. At the low end, a PCGS PR-70DCAM sold in January 2024 for $128.50 in the company’s generic blue “fader” label. On February 19, 2024, a buyer paid $995 (the asking price) for an NGC PF-70UC example with a signed John Mercanti label. That same coin in a Mercanti-signed label sold for $545 a month earlier. On February 9, 2024, a PCGS PR-70DCAM with a John Mercanti-signed label sold for $362.95. These prices are all over the place and indicate an active market that lacks clear pricing information. What should you pay for a Proof 70 today? A more realistic retail price is between $300 and $320. History shows that the “hand-signed premium” will not likely hold up.

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Market Data and Noteworthy Specimens

Top Population: PCGS PR-70DCAM (3,780, 3/2024). NGC PF-70UC (3,095, 3/2024). CAC PR-70DCAM Graded (0:8 stickered:graded, 3/2024)

  • NGC PF-70UCAM #4307940-001: eBay, March 4, 2024 – $320
  • PCGS PR-70DCAM #43781568: eBay, March 3, 2024 – $241.50. Michael Reagan Signature Label.
  • PCGS PR-70DCAM #36175603: eBay, February 28, 2024 – $534.99. John Mercanti Signature Label.
  • NGC PF-70UCAM #3912154-002: eBay, February 16, 2024 – $364. Elizabeth Jones Signature Label.

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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 (1988).

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. Below the olive branch is the S mint mark of San Francisco.

Edge:

The edge of the 1988 American Silver Eagle Proof coin is reeded.

Coin Specifications

American Silver Eagle Proof Coin
Year Of Issue: 1988
Denomination: One Dollar (USD)
Mint Mark: S (San Francisco)
Mintage: 557,370
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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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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