HomeUS Coins1995-W Proof American Silver Eagle : A Collector's Guide

1995-W Proof American Silver Eagle : A Collector’s Guide

1995-W American Silver Eagle Proof. Image: Stack's Bowers / CoinWeek.
1995-W American Silver Eagle Proof. Image: Stack’s Bowers / CoinWeek.

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

The 1995-W Proof American Silver Eagle may be the most overhyped coin in all numismatics, but it is also the key to the American Silver Eagle Proof series. The coin was never sold individually, but instead was sold as part of the United States Mint’s Five Coin American Eagles 10th Anniversary Set, which included every Eagle denomination, including the American Gold Eagle one-ounce, half-ounce, quarter-ounce, and one-tenth-ounce Proof coins.

Including the four gold coins, the set’s price was a whopping $999 ($2,047 in 2024 inflation-adjusted dollars). This proved too high for many in the market, and only 30,125 (66.9%) of the 45,000-unit product limit was sold.

American Eagles 10th Anniversary Set. Image: Stack's Bowers.
American Eagles 10th Anniversary Set. Image: Stack’s Bowers.

Of course, the fact that the coin was heavily promoted and sold as part of a “Richy Rich” coin set does not detract from the 1995-W American Silver Eagle’s immutable characteristics. Nearly every American Silver Eagle collector covets this coin and wants one for their collections; its low mintage and high cost keep it out of the hands of many of the most enthusiastic fans of the series.

The 1995-W American Silver Eagle is a historic coin. It is the first Proof issue in the series to be struck at the West Point Mint and carry the “W” mint mark. It also had the lowest mintage for an American Silver Eagle until the release of the 2019-S Enhanced Reverse Proof. That Enhanced Reverse Proof coin may have its day at some point, but the only barrier to entry was whether you got your order in before it sold out. The 1995-W, on the other hand, was always elusive and has a track record of perceived scarcity.

American Silver Eagle book, signed.
Charles Morgan’s signed copy of Ameircan Silver Eagles: A Guide to the U.S. Bullion Coin Program.

Unfortunately, market makers have heavily promoted the coin, much to the detriment of collectors, many of whom have suffered staggering losses after buying the coin.

When the first edition of John Mercanti and Michael “Miles” Standish’s American Silver Eagles: A Guide to the U.S. Bullion Coin Program was published in 2012, the PCGS population of Proof 70 coins stood at five pieces, with 1,501 in Proof 69, and 520 in Proof 68. The book’s price guide editors suggested a value of $12,000 for the 70s.

Additionally, the book put the lower than Proof 68 population at 281 coins. This would put the PCGS 70 submission rate at at the time at 0.02%.

Whereas Scott Schecter and Jeff Garrett dubbed the 1995-W the “King of the Silver Eagles” and ranked the coin as #4 in their 2011 book 100 Greatest U.S. Modern Coins, Standish, then a key figure in PCGS’ bulk grading business, doubled down.

The Rise and Fall of the 1995-W American Silver Eagle

Three more coins were certified by PCGS before PCGS PR70DCAM (#27497128) sold for a staggering $86,654.70 at a March 31, 2013 GreatCollections sale. At the time of the sale, the PCGS population had risen to eight.

GreatCollections rarely publishes lot descriptions, but for this instance, they did, writing:

The key to the series in the perfect PCGS grade. Only 8 coins have been graded at this perfect 70 level by PCGS. These coins rarely trade (it has been several years since a perfect coin has appeared in auction).

The record breaking 1995-W American Silver Eagle. Image: GreatCollections.
The record-breaking 1995-W American Silver Eagle. Image: GreatCollections.

This sale was a big deal, as it caught the attention of Miles and his network of market makers. They knew that a tremendous amount of money could be made by crossing over NGC coins into PCGS holders.

At the time of the sale, NGC had graded just over 350 PF70UCAM American Silver Eagles. According to Ron Drzewucki, then president of Modern Coin Wholesale, the NGC population was largely driven by two or three coin dealer submitters. Because of the disparate sizes of the populations, the NGC coins were sold at a significant discount. Charles Morgan was sitting with Miles to have dinner in Baltimore in late 2013 when Miles was working to convince a volume eBay seller to do a deal where they submit their NGC 1995-Ws to PCGS for crossover. Others didn’t need to be convinced.

Here is what CoinWeek advised collectors/investors in 2013. It was prescient advice:

The term “burial coin” describes a coin that, for whatever reason, a buyer will never be able to sell for what he/she paid.

The record-breaking 1995-W PCGS PR70DCAM sold at a Great Collections auction in March 2013 is the very definition of such a coin.

Since that coin set the highly publicized record price of $86,654.70, the PCGS-certified population of PR70DCAMs of this issue exploded from 8 to the present census of 64 pieces. Three-quarters of the existing 10th Anniversary Eagle sets remain uncertified, which indicates the likelihood that many additional “perfect” 1995-W’s remain outstanding.

While the disparity in 70-graded coins between the two grading services remains, we should not look for a 1:1 price equilibrium soon. However, the trend line for PCGS top pop coins is clear. Expect further declines as populations continue to rise.

 

Within a year of CoinWeek publishing this warning, the population of PCGS 1995-Ws had risen from eight to 104. Expectedly, the $86,654 record price point was not sustained after subsequent sales. Almost immediately, dealers with coins in hand began to list their examples for $55,000 to $65,000.

At the 2014 Central States sale, Heritage Auctions sold a PCGS PR70DCAM for $41,125. The price continued to sink, and today, with a PCGS population of 501 coins, the NGC population has increased from 371 to 901, and the CAC population sits at a paltry two.

In total, 12,968 coins from the mintage of 30,125 have been certified.

The current price level for the “King of the Silver Eagles” is about $17,000 for a PCGS coin and $13,000 for an NGC coin. Sufficient market data is not yet available for the two CAC pieces. We feel sorry for those who lost their shirts on the 1995-W American Silver Eagle but don’t say we didn’t warn you.

* * *

Market Data and Noteworthy Specimens

Since 2014, the certified population of the 1995-W American Silver Eagles has more than doubled.

As of April 20, 2024, PCGS reports 3,708 grading events in PR69DCAM and 501 in PR70DCAM. This is a 10-year increase of 1,486 for 69 coins and 397 for 70s. Based on those figures, plus coins graded below 69, we estimate that the PCGS 70 rate is now approaching 20%.

NGC has graded 2,141 69s and 575 70s in the past 10 years. We estimate that the NGC 70 rate is now approaching 20% as well. Up to 2014, that rate was just under 8.5%. These percentages may not account for coins that have been submitted (raw or as crossovers) with a minimum grade of 69 or 70.

Top PopulationPCGS PR70DCAM (501, 4/2024), NGC PF70UCAM (946, 4/2024), and CAC PR70DCAM (2, 4/2024).

  • NGC PF70UCAM #2703970-005: Stack’s Bowers, March 28, 2024, Lot 7780 – $12,000. Mike Castle signature insert.
  • NGC PF70UCAM #3919968-001: “The Rick Appel Collection,” Stack’s Bowers, March 26, 2024, Lot 4408 – $13,200.
  • NGC PF70UCAM #3849378-005: Heritage Auctions, March 18, 2024, Lot 50193 – $10,800. Tom Uram signature insert.
  • NGC PF70UCAM #3521492-001: Heritage Auctions, March 18, 2024, Lot 50194 – $10,800.
  • PCGS PR70DCAM #81990972: Heritage Auctions, March 18, 2024, Lot 50195 – $14,400. Ed Moy signature insert.
  • NGC PF70UCAM #3372409-002: Stack’s Bowers, February 21, 2024, Lot 97719 – $12,000.
  • NGC PF70UCAM #6864522-005: Heritage Auctions, February 8, 2024, Lot 3195 – $10,800.
  • PCGS PR70DCAM #32875496: Stack’s Bowers, January 25, 2023, Lot 92106 – $16,800.
  • NGC PF70UCAM #5964996-002: Heritage Auctions, January 15, 2024, Lot 92052 – $15,000. John Mercanti signature insert.
  • PCGS PR70DCAM #83635337: Heritage Auctions, August 2017, Lot 4239 – $16,450;  Heritage Auctions, January 12, 2024, Lot 5231 – $13,201.20.
  • CACG PR60DCAM #5003766: GreatCollections, September 3, 2023, Lot 1433580 – View.

* * *

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 (1990).

The design resembles sculptor Oscar Roty’s The Sower, a common image on French coins. In his book Renaissance of American Coinage (2007), Numismatist Roger Burdette posited that this was not a coincidence. While Adolph Weinman did not directly copy Roty’s work, he did derive significant inspiration from it. 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:

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

Edge:

The edge of the 1990-S American Silver Eagle Proof coin is reeded.

1995-W Silver Eagle Proof Coin Specifications

American Silver Eagle Proof Coin
Year Of Issue: 1995
Denomination: One Dollar (USD)
Mint Mark: W (West Point)
Mintage: 30,125
Alloy: 99.9% silver
Weight: 31.1 g
Diameter: 40.6 mm
Edge: Reeded
OBV Designer: Adolph A. Weinman
REV Designer: John M. Mercanti

 

* * *

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

Related Articles

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Bullion Sharks Silver

L and C COIN Specials

Professional Coin Grading Service