HomeUS Coins1989 American Silver Eagle : A Collector's Guide

1989 American Silver Eagle : A Collector’s Guide

1989 American Silver Eagle. Image: CoinWeek.
1989 American Silver Eagle. Image: CoinWeek.

Demand for American Silver Eagle bullion strikes ticked up in 1989, even as silver underperformed over the year. For most of 1989, the silver spot price fluctuated between $5.20 and $5.90 USD. This level was more than a dollar lower than the typical daily spot price from the year before.

Even with the slight increase in the number of coins struck, the American Silver Eagle bullion coin sales fell far below the sales levels from the final months of 1986, or through 1987, the program’s first full year. Demand for bullion strike American Silver Eagles would not come within one million coins of the 11,442,335 coins sold in 1987 until 2002.

The passage of time is impacting the way the market treats early American Silver Eagle bullion strikes. As the program approaches its 40th year, collectors and sellers of these early coins are beginning to refer to Eagles struck from 1986 to 1996 as “early dates”. This early date designation primarily impacts unopened monster boxes (which will potentially yield MS-70 coins upon bulk submission) and coins certified MS-69 and MS-70. The market still treats loose, ungraded, or lightly mishandled coins as bullion.

What Is the 1989 American Silver Eagle Worth?

The market value of the 1989 American Silver Eagle fluctuates and is volatile in the MS-70 grade. The main reason for this is the ever increasing supply of 70 coins.

CoinWeek tracked population changes to the Silver Eagle series on a month-to-month basis in 2014 and 2015, a key period for the explosion in popularity of the series, and we noted significant downward price trends as a steady stream of coins from this date made it into NGC and PCGS holders. Then, as is the case now, NGC held a huge submission advantage. In 2015, the NGC MS-69 population stood at 104,187 coins, while the MS-70 population stood at 398. At the time (2015), NGC 69s traded for $30 to $36, while 70s were declining at $1,000 to $1,500 each.

The NGC population at MS-69 has increased to 142,146 as of February 2024 (about 4,000 coins per year), while the MS-70 pop has increased to 2,141 (about 174 coins per year). The MS-69 coins now sell for about $40 each. This really is not an increase as inflation, the higher cost of submission, and the higher silver spot price needs to be considered. NGC MS-70 coins have lost about $800 of value, and recent sales on eBay and elsewhere fall within the $600 and $700 range. This issue, like the 1986 bullion strike, has been a long-term loser.

The population of PCGS coins has also exploded. Through 2014, PCGS had never awarded a single 1989 American Silver Eagle the grade MS-70. In the summer of 2015, the first coin to earn that grade was made (submitted and certified, not literally “produced”). That coin was sold on June 14, 2015 through GreatCollections, where it brought $22,000 with Buyer’s Premium.

The discrepancy between the PCGS population of one and the NGC population of 398 is not the result of one company getting all of the “perfect” coins to grade while the other got only slightly flawed coins. Instead, the low PCGS population leads us to intuit that there was a policy in place not to grade perfect coins because of a well-known milk spotting issue. That policy, we suspect, gave NGC a longterm structural advantage with bulk submissions, which is why the data is so skewed in their favor.

That policy is clearly no longer in effect, as today, the PCGS MS-70 population stands at 385 coins and where PCGS had a 6,908:1 ratio of MS-69:MS-70 through 2015, in the years since, that ratio has come down to 23.8:1–roughly 22 coins per monster box. Quite a difference. PCGS MS-70 prices have collapsed as a result of this. That $22,000 coin is now worth about $800.

PCGS MS-69 examples trade regularly for $45 to $50.

CAC is new to the American Silver Eagle grading game. To date, the firm has graded 14 coins at the MS-69 level and 58 at the MS-70 level. We suspect that most of these submissions were attempts to cross MS-70 coins from other holders. We expect CAC MS-70 coins to retail at $1,000 to $1,200 for the time being and lower as supplies increase.

At the same time, the value of NGC MS-70s had shed about 25% of their year-to-year value, owing some of this to a softer coin market. From 2014-2015, NGC had certified 33 pieces in their top grade, an increase of almost 10% year over year.

Design

Obverse:

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 (1989).

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:

Chief Engraver John 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 1989 American Silver Eagle bullion coin is reeded.

Coin Specifications

American Silver Eagle Bullion Coin
Year Of Issue: 1989
Mintage: 5,203,327
Alloy: 99.9% silver
Weight: 31.1 grams
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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