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The 2016 American Silver Eagle: A Modest Proposal


By Ron DrzewuckiModern Coin Wholesale …..
2016 marks the 30th anniversary of the American Silver Eagle bullion coin program, and I’m sure the U.S. Mint has something special lined up for collectors next year. But if I–and many other people–had our way, 2016 would be a landmark year for the series.

And I know just how the Mint can get the biggest bang for its buck, too.

Here’s what I’m thinking.

For the 25th anniversary in 2011, we got the second P-Mint Reverse Proof of the series. It’s a worthy enough coin, hard to say bad things about it, but in hindsight I feel the Mint could have done something even bigger to celebrate the Silver Eagle’s quarter century. Besides, they’ve taken appropriate advantage of the Reverse Proof’s popularity and issued one every year since, though eventually this will also diminish the 2011-P’s impact.

But there’s more.

Is it time to change the reverse of the American Silver Eagle?

Beyond the cultural weight typically bestowed upon a 25th (silver!) anniversary, there’s another reason 2011 was something of a wasted opportunity. According to the commonly-accepted reading of federal law, the Secretary of the Treasury (in consultation with the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee, or CCAC) can change a coin’s design only once every 25 years.

In other words, the 25th anniversary of a coin series is the first and perfect time for a redesign.

Now, on the one hand, who can blame them? I mean, the American Eagle silver bullion program is the Mint’s best seller, why fix what ain’t broke? Plus, I’m not familiar with the behind-the-scenes push and pull or any efforts made at the time to change things up, so the decision could’ve been a close call for all I know. The CCAC has recommended a change to the reverse for the last few years…

But on the other hand, you and I both know collectors would go crazy for a well-crafted and well-conceived new variety of ASE. And I personally believe the United States can be a little too conservative when it comes to coin design. Let’s not go hog wild, but “striking” a nice balance between old and new is certainly possible and probably desirable.

(Oh, you know you love the puns.)

So I say it’s time. Time for the American Silver Eagle to get a makeover. What better way to commemorate its 30th anniversary is there?

Granted, I’m talking about just the reverse. I’m not tired of Adolph Weinman’s Walking Liberty obverse design by any means; in fact, next year might be a really bad time to replace it since 2016 is also the 100th anniversary of both Weinman’s Walking Liberty half dollar AND his Mercury dime. It’s also the centennial of the release of the Standing Liberty quarter. Potentially, all of these classic American coins are to be honored next year with 24-karat gold coins, using the original artwork as Weinman and Aitken intended (and I hope we can all be adults about the Type 1 Standing Liberty).

Then again, and considering the special centennial issues, maybe next year would be a great time to change the obverse on the Silver Eagle. My opinion is that it’d be too risky, so let’s assume for the sake of argument that only the reverse is up for grabs.

There were several compelling reverse eagle designs squirreled away for future use after John Mercanti’s now-classic ASE reverse won the vote in the mid-1980s. Odds are one of them would be selected this time around, with perhaps some alterations made according to the taste of the current CCAC lineup. But you never know. If the Mint commits to this change, we may see a very competitive field of vibrant new entries on the committee’s agenda.

Choosing a new reverse, whether it’s a smooth or laborious process, is only half of what I have in mind, however. Want collectors to really go nuts? Want to rake in the dough hand over fist? Don’t worry, United States Mint, Ron’s got your back: announce the design change in January.

Why does that matter, you might ask? Well, the regular run of 2016–the run of 2016 American Silver Eagles that we can safely assume we’re getting (at this moment)–will be produced later this year (December), using past performance as a guide to production volume. Only if the Mint had everything ready for a reverse change by then would they make an announcement this year. I doubt that’ll happen. So when production starts in December, it will be of the Mercanti reverse type (is it too early to call this the Type 1 Silver Eagle?).

Okay, so when orders for the 2016 ASE open up in January, this is what Mint customer’s are ordering. Then a week or two later the Mint makes the announcement that 2016 will see the beginning of a new era in the American Eagle Silver bullion program with a brand new reverse. It won’t catch anyone who reads the numismatic media (or my blog, hint hint) off guard, we’ll all be at least vaguely aware that the CCAC has approved a new reverse design for the Silver Eagle and that it’s happening next year, but official pronouncements still carry a sway and so this hypothetical announcement sometime in mid-January will serve as a strong stimulus to an already booming speculators’ market.

How could the serious investor or even collector resist the urge to double dip? You’d have two types for the year, not to mention mint marks, finishes, special sets, etc. The aftermarket would be especially active, since I can see the regular 2016 run selling out very quickly upon hearing the news.

Our friends over at the TPGs (third-party grading services) would have a field day.

Everybody wins, but the Mint benefits the most of all. And a flagship product gets the celebration it deserves.

Anyway, that’s my proposal. Feel free to take me up on it, guys. This one’s on me.


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  1. Ron, refresh my memory. Did the CCAC recommend the flying eagle design currently on the upcoming 2015 Liberty gold HR found on the Mints “upcoming products” link at their website?

  2. The obverse must remain, but the reverse can change —
    another eagle, I guess

    Mercanti’s or someone elses, would make for a change, eh?

  3. From what I have gathered from the mint by speaking to them on Facebook, I think that the mint is going to make the design for the proof American Eagle the same as the Walking Liberty type to honor the centennial as well as the 30th anniversary of the American Eagle. By the way if you are wondering about the American Liberty 2016 Silver Medal’s this year I will give you a hint they won’t be from last years design they will be the Mercury dime and Standing Liberty Quarter. So the mint will make a fortune and I am so excited. Again this is what I have gathered based on my Facebook interaction.


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