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2003 American Silver Eagle : A Collector’s Guide

2003 American Silver Eagle. Image: CoinWeek.
2003 American Silver Eagle. Image: CoinWeek.

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

The West Point Mint produced 8,495,008 2003 American Silver Eagle bullion coins, but as is tradition, the bullion version does not carry a mintmark. This mintage marks a decline of just over two million coins from the then-record year of 2002 but it was still a strong showing as investors in the new millennium grew increasingly concerned about the direction of the country. Mintages ran up in anticipation of Y2K, exploded after 9/11, surged during the Obama Administration, declined during the first three years of Trump, and then surged again in 2020. When future generations of numismatists look back and study the coins of our era, these underlying social and political factors will prove key to understanding bullion mintages.

What is the 2003 American Silver Eagle Worth?

The 2003 American Silver Eagle is bought and sold in four basic formats: as a bulk bullion investment coin, as a single uncertified collector coin, as a certified coin graded MS69, and as a certified coin graded MS70. Bullion investors, buying American Silver Eagles in quantity, are unlikely to put much emphasis on the dates of the coins in their portfolios. As the vast majority of bullion strike American Silver Eagles are produced and sold for this class of purchaser, most 2003 American Silver Eagles are held by individuals and institutions agnostic about the date.

Collectors are less likely to purchase these coins in great quantity, and for those purchasing 2003 American Silver Eagles in their raw form, the price per coin usually falls within a few dollars of the prevailing spot price. This has been the case since the coin’s release 20+ years ago when the silver spot price averaged just shy of $5 an ounce. Recent eBay sales for individual raw coins are exactly where one would expect them to be – in the $30-$35 range.

The 10-year price performance for certified American Silver Eagles has not been good. In 2014, with silver averaging just over $19 an ounce, MS69 2003 American Silver Eagles sold for prices ranging from $29 to $34 – a $10 to $15 premium over spot. In June 2024, prices realized for coins sold in auction formats on eBay typically fall between $40 to $50, a $10 to $20 premium over spot. Prices for MS70 coins have fallen from $175-$200 in 2014 to $85-$125 in 2024.

Over the past decade, the leading grading services added an average of 5,600 new MS69 and MS70 coins to the combined certified census and the ratio of MS70 to MS69 coins has increased dramatically. One out of every 5.34 coins certified by PCGS since 2014 has earned an MS70, as has one out of every 18 coins graded by NGC.

With the value of once “conditionally rare” early date MS70s evaporating with the constant flow of new coins, it’s not surprising to see the series cool off somewhat.

Odds and Ends

2003 Legacy of Freedom Bullion Coin Set. Image: United States Mint.
2003 Legacy of Freedom Bullion Coin Set.

Sometime after June 2014, PCGS began to certify Silver Eagles from the 2003 Legacies of Freedom Two-Coin Set. The set included a standard Mint State 2003 American Silver Eagle coin and a 2002 Reverse Proof Silver Britannia One Pound bullion coin from the United Kingdom. The set had a 50,000-unit limit. In the UK, a similar two-coin set featuring the same coins–this one called the “Ladies of Liberty”–was offered. The maximum mintage of that set was 25,000.

Additionally, the following PCGS signature labels were offered in limited numbers:

  • Jessica Lynch – 1,435 pieces (MS69)
  • Lance Armstrong – 204 pieces (MS69)
  • Tommy Franks – 70 pieces (MS69)

Additional PCGS signature labels were produced for signers Leonard Buckley, Thomas Cleveland, Emily S. Damstra, Fred Haise, David Hall, John Mercanti, and Edmund Moy.

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Market Data and Noteworthy Specimens

Top PopulationPCGS MS70 (3,297, 6/2024), NGC MS70 (4,339, 6/2024), and CAC MS70 (30, 6/2024).

  • PCGS MS70: eBay, June 24, 2024 – $105.50.
  • NGC MS70 #6552016-016: eBay, June 23, 2024 – $125.50.
  • PCGS MS70 #47222129: eBay, June 21, 2024 – $329.95. First Strike insert.
  • PCGS MS70 #40254733: eBay, June 19, 2024 – $88.
  • NGC MS70 #6552016-018: eBay, June 17, 2024 – $86.
  • NGC MS70 #6552016-019: eBay, June 17, 2024 – $95.
  • NGC MS70 #4509429-005: Stack’s Bowers, April 3, 2024, Lot 13547 – $85.
  • NGC MS70 #1862071-015: Stack’s Bowers, February 2014, Lot 5675 – $95.

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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 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 2003.

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. 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 2003 American Silver Eagle bullion coin is reeded.

Coin Specifications

American Silver Eagle Bullion Coin
Year of Issue: 2003
Mintage: 8,495,008
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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