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1994 American Silver Eagle : A Collector’s Guide

1994 American Silver Eagle. Image: Stack's Bowers / CoinWeek.
1994 American Silver Eagle. Image: Stack’s Bowers / CoinWeek.

By Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker for CoinWeek Notes …..

Demand for the 1994 American Silver Eagle marked a low point in the almost decade-long American Silver Eagle bullion coin program. Silver limped throughout the year, ending about 16¢ lower on December 31 than where it opened in January. The paper markets were mixed: bonds were massacred, and the Dow Jones returned only 2.14% for the year. The first “internet bubble”, which would mark the economic good times of the Clinton Presidency, would not begin to manifest for another year.

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Market Data and Noteworthy Specimens

The 1994 American Silver Eagle market has changed dramatically since 2012-2016 when examples graded by NGC and PCGS had sold at auction for more than $10,000 each. For NGC and PCGS, the approach to grading American Silver Eagles was markedly different.

NGC received a higher volume of submissions of American Silver Eagles and would find that a small percentage of the coins merited a grade of MS70 while finding that a majority of the coins were of high enough quality to earn a grade of MS69. Through 2014, NGC counted 120,897 coins in its MS69 census, adding about 5,000 coins to its population report from the previous year. At MS70, the NGC population stood at 202, a 50-coin increase year-to-year.

To that point in time, PCGS had yet to assign a single 1994 American Silver Eagle with a grade of MS70. As a result, submissions to PCGS amounted to a tiny fraction of those submitted to NGC. We counted 5,133 coins in the PCGS MS69 census, with a year-to-year increase of just 326 coins.

PCGS saw a major shakeup in its bulk program in 2015 with the departure of Michael “Miles” Standish, who had served as the architect of the PCGS “First Strike” program and its signature label offerings. Mark Stephenson, a practicing attorney, and his assistant Daniel Kadem, formerly with Gainesville Coins, replaced Standish with mixed results. Stephenson lasted three years, while Kadem was out after just a year. One of the tandem’s most curious innovations was the introduction of multi-colored gaskets. Standish joined NGC, bringing autograph signers John Mercanti and Ed Moy with him – but PCGS’s insurmountable market share lead was already well in place.

To increase bulk submissions of early-date American Silver Eagles, PCGS had to shift its position regarding milk spotting on modern silver coins. It did so by adding this provision to its grading guarantee:

This guarantee shall not apply to coins exhibiting environmental deterioration subsequent to certification, including spotting on modern silver coins.

Indemnified against future losses caused by milk spotting on coins after encapsulation, PCGS opened the door for increased submissions from dealers making markets in American Silver Eagles. In the Spring of 2016, PCGS graded its first MS70 1994 American Silver Eagle, which sold at a September 2016 Heritage sale for $11,162.50. The PCGS MS70 population increased by a handful of coins per year, reaching 19 by early 2022; compare that to NGC’s 375. By early 2023, the PCGS number had increased to 22, with 438 at NGC. Since then, the PCGS MS70 population has increased to 78, with NGC up to 578.

With the premiums that MS70-graded 1994 American Silver Eagles bring, we expect to see continued submissions until the available stock of fresh Monster Boxes has been diminished. We remain bearish on the issue.

As for coins graded MS69, in 2015 we wrote:

“Getting a gauge on what PCGS MS69 eagles from this issue are “worth” is tricky business. Sufficient material isn’t in the retail pipeline to provide us with a significant number of transactions and those that are offered are typically listed at Fixed Prices in line with what the “Guides” typically say the coin is worth. These items find buyers, but no reserve auctions for the same coin present a starkly different picture. In May 2014, all four no-reserve auctions for PCGS MS69s brought prices well below the $115 to $130 range typical in our “Buy It Now” data set. Our current price guidance for this issue rests between the two data sets. We will track this issue closely in our next update. NGC MS69s were also down slightly month-to-month.”

In May 2024, PCGS MS69 coins remain scarce on eBay but appear with some degree of regularity. One example (#22128659) sold on May 21 for $51.02, another (#42372553) sold on May 17 for $61, and a third (#26659109) sold on May 15 for $62. All three listings were true auctions with multiple bids. Had the value of the PCGS MS69s kept up with inflation, these coins would have sold for about $150 today. Instead, these $50-$60 price points indicate the real decline in value that this issue has experienced since the third-party grading services established the date as one of the series’ keys.

Top PopulationPCGS MS70 (78, 4/2024), NGC MS70 (578, 4/2024), and CAC MS70 (2, 5/2024).

  • PCGS MS70 #46429631: eBay, May 17, 2024 – $7,950.
  • NGC MS70 #4652566-006: Stack’s Bowers, March 28, 2024, Lot 7779 – $3,600.
  • PCGS MS70 #42756631: Heritage Auctions, October 9, 2023, Lot 51388 – $5,760.
  • NGC MS70 #6498456-013: Heritage Auctions, March 13, 2023, Lot 51270 – $6,900.
  • NGC MS70 #1958349-009: Heritage Auctions, March 13, 2023, Lot 51269 – $6,600.
  • NGC MS70 #1758858-002: Heritage Auctions, April 11, 2022, Lot 91084 – $7,500.
  • NGC MS70 #4493332-003: Heritage Auctions, December 30, 2020, Lot 29430 – $6,000. Mercanti signature insert.
  • PCGS MS70 #35315050: Heritage Auctions, December 5, 2019, Lot 3461 – $9,600. Mercanti signature insert.
  • PCGS MS70 #81325818: Heritage Auctions, September 8, 2016, Lot 5832 – $11,162.50. First PCGS MS70 to appear at auction. Pop two at the time of the sale.
  • NGC MS70 #1958349-007: Stack’s Bowers, February 2014, Lot 3402 – $3,290.
  • NGC MS70 #1837990-001: Heritage Auctions, November 2, 2013, Lot 4926 – $11,162.50.

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Design

Obverse:

Artist 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 the motto IN GOD WE TRUST, and below her is the date 1994.

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 Mercanti’s Heraldic Eagle is positioned at the center of the reverse. Clutched in its beak is a ribbon bearing the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM. Above its head is a constellation of 13 stars configured in an upside-down pyramid formation. The legend (top) UNITED STATES OF AMERICA is wrapped around the design and the fineness and denomination (bottom) 1 OZ. FINE SILVER. ONE DOLLAR.

Edge:

The edge of the 1994 American Silver Eagle bullion coin is reeded.

Coin Specifications

American Silver Eagle Bullion Coin
Year Of Issue: 1994
Mintage: 4,227,319
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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