By Bullion Shark LLC ……
In the 1970s, silver that had been stored in the United States’ Defense National Stockpile for years had accumulated to the point that it exceeded projected needs. The Nixon administration proposed selling some of these holdings, but silver miners opposed the move since selling a lot of silver would depress spot prices. Later, the Reagan administration proposed selling 75% of the stockpile, but that measure, which would have depleted the stockpile quickly, was blocked by Senator James McClure (R-ID), whose district included silver miners.
Instead, McClure proposed that silver from the stockpile could only be sold if the silver miners were given a way to sell surplus silver to the U.S. government. Thus, once again the silver mining industry played a key role in shaping American silver coinage as it did in the 19th century, and the idea of an American silver bullion investment coin was born. The American Silver Eagle program was then authorized through an amendment to the 1985 legislation that created the Statue of Liberty commemorative coin program.
The American Silver Eagle
First issued in 1986 in both bullion and Proof versions, the American Silver Eagle is not only the United States Mint’s most successful non-circulating coin program of all time but it’s also one of the world’s most popular silver bullion coins, with almost 600 million coins struck in a market that today offers buyers more choices for such products than ever.
In 2002, when the silver from the stockpile had been depleted, the law was modified to continue issuing American Silver Eagles with silver purchased from U.S. silver mines at market prices.
Today, the Silver Eagle is at the heart of the modern U.S. coin and silver bullion markets as the silver coin that has the highest demand and premiums and the greatest liquidity because of those factors. It is also the most widely collected silver coin in the country with more people building various sets of the coin than of any other modern U.S. coin.
Silver Eagle Coins
Silver eagles are issued in six versions of strike and finish, including Mint State, Proof, Burnished, Reverse Proof, Enhanced Uncirculated, and Enhanced Reverse Proof – with the latter three all issued in special sets. See this post for an explanation of those types of Silver Eagles and of the sets.
World War II Privy Eagle
In November, as part of the U.S. Mint’s numismatic tributes to the victorious end of World War II, achieved through American leadership, military intervention, and allied support, the first-ever privy-marked American Silver Eagle will be issued. Over 400,000 Americans died during the war, which formally ended on September 2, 1945, after the Japanese surrender that followed that of Nazi Germany in May of that year.
The coin will feature a small privy mark (similar to the ones on the 2020 West Point quarter) with “V75” within an outline of the Rainbow pool of the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. Limited to 75,000 coins, which will immediately make it the fourth rarest coin of the series (after the 1995-W Proof, the 2019-S Enhanced Reverse Proof, and the 2008-W Reverse of 2007 Burnished Uncirculated coins), intense demand is expected for this new key coin.
The Mint is also issuing a $10, 24 karat gold coin and silver medal featuring an obverse that depicts an eagle in flight, facing the olive branch it grasps in its right talon. The olive branch symbolizes peace. The eagle design is inspired by the 1945 version of the Great Seal of the United States. In 1945, the eagle on the Great Seal switched from looking toward the arrows of war to looking toward the olive branch of peace. The reverse features a sun shining on olive branches. The sun resembles the sun rising behind Liberty on the obverse of the 1945 World War II Victory Medal. The medal was issued to those who served in the U.S. Armed Forces from December 7, 1941, to December 31, 1946.
Artistic Infusion Program (AIP) artist Ronald Sanders created the obverse design. Mint Medallic Artist Phebe Hemphill sculpted it. The reverse design was created by AIP artist Donna Weaver and sculpted by Mint Medallic Artist Renata Gordon.
Next January, when the 2021 American Silver Eagle bullion coin debuts, it will feature a new reverse design to replace the heraldic eagle that was on it from 1986 to 2020. The obverse, based on Adolph Weinman’s legendary Walking Liberty design, will not be changed. The Mint has not yet announced which design will be used. Earlier this year, the two design committees recommended different designs with the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC) recommending a bold image of a close-up profile of the head of an eagle, while the Commission on Fine Arts (CFA) suggested using a more traditional design of a flying eagle preparing to land while clutching an oak branch in its talons. Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin will soon make the final selection.
Silver Eagle Prices
The premium over spot for a bullion Silver Eagle ebbs and flows with a changing market. Today with very high demand, they run at least $7 over spot for retail sale. Most dates sell for about $35 today except for the first coin from 1986 and the 1996 (the lowest mintage at 3.6 million).
Examples graded MS69 sell for just a few dollars more than a raw mint state coin at about $40, while MS70s currently bring about $65.
With the collector coins, prices depend on mintages, demand, and grade, with the two lowest-mintage coins–the 1995-W and the 2019-S Enhanced Reverse Proof–bringing $15,000 and $2,000, respectively, in the top grade of PF70. Generic (common-date) Proof issues run about $100 for PF70 and about $70 for PF69 — the same for an ungraded Proof except for a couple of dates that run more. Proof 70s of the coins from the 1980s are more valuable, and even more valuable are the MS70 coins from that period.