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HomeUS CoinsAmerican Gold Eagle Approaches 35th Anniversary With Design Change Looming

American Gold Eagle Approaches 35th Anniversary With Design Change Looming

By Bullion Shark LLC ……
During the first decade after it became legal again for Americans to own gold coins in 1974, the South African gold Krugerrand dominated the world gold coin market, accounting for 90% of coins traded. Around this time, Representative Ron Paul (R-TX22) led an effort to develop an American gold investment coin that would be an alternative to the Krugerrand, which was created through the Gold Bullion Coin Act of 1985 after several other measures failed.

Starting in 1986, the United States Mint began issuing American Gold Eagles in four sizes — $50 coins containing one ounce of gold; $25 coins with one-half ounce of gold; $10 coins with one-quarter an ounce of gold; and $5 coins with one-tenth an ounce. Each was composed on 22-karat gold, the same as the Krugerrand, and weighed a little more than its gold weight because the coins, which contain .9167 fineness gold, also include .0533 ounces of copper and .03 of silver. The legislation also stipulated the that coins had to be produced using gold mined in the United States.

In the almost 35 years since the coins were introduced, they have continued to dominate the U.S. gold coin market and are also popular in other countries. From the beginning the coins were issued in two formats – business strike bullion coins aimed mainly at gold investors (that, with time, also became popular collectibles) and Proof coins aimed at collectors, which can also be included in precious metal IRA accounts. Both versions are collected both raw and graded.

For the design, then-Treasury Secretary James Baker delighted numismatists by selecting the iconic and beloved 1907 Augustus Saint-Gaudens $20 gold double eagle obverse depiction of Liberty striding confidently towards the future and carrying a torch in her right hand and an olive branch in her left hand. To remain true to the original, the coins featured Roman numerals for their date until 1992, and all inscriptions were contained on the reverse, which featured an original design called Family of Eagles by Miley Busek (now Tucker-Frost) and engraved by Sherl Joseph Winter. The design shows a male eagle carrying an olive branch and flying above a nest with a female eagle and hatchlings.

Next year, when the series turns 35, there will be a new reverse design on bullion versions of the American Gold Eagle that will also feature state-of-the-art anti-counterfeiting measures that are being developed. The Mint has not yet announced what the new design will be or whether or when it will be used on the collector issues.

Burnished Coins

In 2006, new collectible versions of the coin struck on specially burnished planchets with a satiny finish debuted and are known as Burnished Uncirculated coins.

These coins, like all the Proof issues, are struck at the West Point Mint and feature a “W” mintmark. Although they do not have preset mintage levels and are produced to demand, some of these coins were issued in very small numbers for a modern coin and are highly collectible. They were not issued in 2009 and 2010 when demand for gold bullion outstripped the Mint’s supply of gold planchets. In addition, the fractional burnished coins smaller than an ounce were only issued from 2006 to 2008.

In particular, the 2008-W $10 coin with a mintage of 8,883, the 2007-W $25 coin with a mintage of 11,455, and the $50 coins from 2012 and 2017 with respective mintages of 5,829 and 5,800 are highly sought by collectors.

Only two special anniversary sets have been issued to date: the 10th Anniversary West Point Mint set in 1995 that included the four Proofs from that year plus the key date 1995-W Proof Silver Eagle and the 2006 20th Anniversary set that includes the $50 coins from that year in three finishes: Burnished Uncirculated, Proof, and the only Reverse Proof coin of the series that was exclusively available in that set with a mintage of 10,000 coins (actual sales of 9,996). The Reverse Proof coin has maintained a strong premium since its issue as a unique coin needed by many different type of collectors.

Collecting Strategies

Because gold is not cheap and its spot price has been rising in recent years and because the Gold Eagle is issued in four sizes and multiple finishes, those who wish to collect the series can’t afford to buy every coin and need to decide what to focus on.

An affordable approach would be to put together a type set of one or more denominations, and graded examples might be a good way to do that. The $50 coins would be the most suitable since they were issued in each finish: bullion, Proof, Burnished and Reverse Proof.

For those interested in building a complete date set of one or more versions of the coin, it is advisable to select one of the four denominations. Buyers have a long-standing preference that is reflected in sales numbers for either the largest coin, the $50 one-ounce piece, or the most affordable, the $10, tenth-ounce coin. For this reason, mintages of the other two coins tend to be lower most years, especially for the bullion coins.

The $25 half-ounce bullion coins include some issues with low mintages that sell for substantial premiums over melt, such as the 1991, with only 24,100 minted, and the 1990, with 31,000 struck. Those two coins are not easy to locate and have had time to appreciate. Examples graded MS70 of the 1991 issue are worth at least $6,000.

The 2019 $25 issue, the new second-lowest for the series at 30,000, is also seeing its value increase.

There are also varieties of some Gold Eagles, with the most significant being the 1999-W $5 and $10 bullion coins that were inadvertently struck on unpolished Proof dies at a time when demand for gold bullion was spiking because of the approaching Y2K computer issue. Those coins have respective estimated mintages of 14,500 and 10,000 and raw coin values of about $900 and $1,800.

In the coming months collectors of American Gold Eagles have a lot to look forward to from the special World War II first-ever privy mark coins with an incredibly low mintage to a new reverse design. And chances are good that the Mint will release a special set next year for the coin’s 35th anniversary.

Interested in these coins? Contact Bullion Shark at 516-739-5822
or visit their website at

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2020 (P) Emergency Issue Silver Eagle Giveaway

Bullion Shark is proud to announce its sweepstakes for a 2020 (P) Emergency Issue Silver Eagle PCGS MS70 First Strike. One lucky winner will receive the most popular Silver Eagle of the year. This is a $229 value.

Beginning May 21 and running through June 10, you will have the opportunity to sign up to enter this contest. All you need to do is fill out the information here and wait to see if you are the lucky winner when the result is drawn on June 12. We will contact you by email/phone for your shipping address if you are the winner.

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