By Bullion Shark LLC ……
For the second time in 2020, the United States Mint has produced a limited number of American Silver Eagles at a mint other than its West Point facility, which has historically handled the bulk of production of these coins. Those coins were offered to the Mint’s network of Authorized Purchasers on November 2 in monster boxes of 500 coins each.
One million such coins were struck at the San Francisco Mint, and they are being sold at a slight premium over the normal wholesale cost of these coins due to higher production costs in San Francisco. They will be offered in monster boxes that are labeled and numbered with production lot numbers from 800,000 to 801,999, which the Mint confirms are for coins made only at the San Francisco Mint.
Sealed monster boxes of these coins may be sent to the grading services to receive labels that mark them as 2020 (S) American Silver Eagles, while also indicating they were an emergency production struck at the San Francisco Mint.
This is similar to what was used in early May when they announced that the 240,000 Silver Eagles struck on an emergency basis at the Philadelphia Mint were eligible for special labels if submitted in unopened monster boxes.
On April 15, the Mint announced a temporary suspension of operations at its West Point Mint that ended a week later that was done to give the Mint time to do a thorough cleaning of that facility and to implement special safety protocols for the production of bullion coins to reduce the risk of exposure to the virus by its employees.
During the past summer, demand for American Silver Eagles has been extremely strong, according to an October 29 statement obtained from the Mint, which “was at times not able to meet full market demand. In an effort to meet demand, the San Francisco Mint was used to augment American Silver Eagle production.”
So far this year, the Mint has sold 24.5 million of these coins compared to 14.8 million for all of the calendar year 2019.
During the summer, the U.S. Mint also announced that it would implement special measures to meet rising demand for Silver Eagles, such as producing coins at mints other than West Point.
Like the 2020 (P) coins, the 2020 (S) Silver Eagles are commanding higher retail prices than the coins made at West Point, which for 2020 include all production to date except for the two special runs of 240,000 and one million coins, or 23,260,000 coins. That considerable difference is significant to collectors of this series who care about mintage numbers.
The key date 2015 (P) in MS70 (with only 79,640 struck) in an NGC holder recently sold for $4,000 on eBay, while an MS69 is still affordable at under $600. The MS70 is one of only 103 coins at NGC, or 4% of the coins graded by that service.
In related news earlier in October the Mint’s response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by a California dealer revealed that the entire production of Silver Eagles in 1986 and 1987 (5,393,005 and 11,442,335, respectively) occurred at the San Francisco Mint, not at the West Point and Denver Mints as several previously published numismatic sources had indicated.
This is also interesting since, during the period 1986-1987, the San Francisco Mint was still an assay office and was only elevated to the status of a mint on March 31, 1988.
In response to this request, the Mint also provided a breakdown of which mint produced these coins for the entire period from 1986 to July 17, 2017, and Coin World has requested information for the rest of 2017 to the present.
Based on what is now known, Silver Eagles were produced in 1986-1987 only in San Francisco; from 1988 to 1998 they were made at both West Point and San Francisco; from 1999 to 2010 they were only made at West Point; from 2011 to 2014 they were made at West Point and San Francisco; in 2015 they were made in West Point except for 79,500 coins made at Philadelphia; in 2016 and 2017 all three mints produced coins as demand was rising; in 2018 and 2019 likely only West Point made them when demand was down (this needs to be confirmed); and in 2020 as indicated above again involved all three mints.
Note that only coins issued since 2011 have been labeled on their monster boxes in a way that makes it possible to identify which mints struck the coins and for those issued since 2014 how many were made at each mint. For the prior years, there is no way to distinguish the coins from each other because monster boxes from that period did not use the numbering system used today.
This information allows future collectors to have a more complete understanding of where different Silver Eagles were made.