HomeUS CoinsThe Coin Analyst: U.S. Mint Creates New Finish for American Silver Eagles

The Coin Analyst: U.S. Mint Creates New Finish for American Silver Eagles

by Louis Golino for CoinWeek ………

In May or June the U.S. Mint (www.usmint.gov) will begin taking orders for a special two-coin West Point American silver eagle set that will mark the 75th anniversary of the Mint’s facility at West Point.

The set will include two coins that will only be sold in the special set. One will be a reverse proof silver eagle, and this will be the fourth time that finish has been used. The fields are frosted and the devices are mirrored instead of the other way around as is the case with proof coins.

The second coin will be what the Mint refers to as an enhanced uncirculated silver eagle, and this will be the first time such a coin is issued and the fifth type of finish used on a silver eagle. The others are uncirculated as used on the bullion coins, proof, reverse proof, and burnished uncirculated. The Mint has not yet decided whether the new finish will be used on future silver eagle coins.

ase_enhanced_uncThe enhanced uncirculated coin will include three different types of finishes for the fields and devices of the coin, including heavy frost, light frost, and brilliant polish, which will be combined to give the coins a unique look.

On the coin’s obverse the mountains, the stripes on the flag that would be red, if it were in color, the flag’s blue field, the year, and the sandals of Liberty will all have a brilliant polish field. The other design elements of the obverse and the coin’s lettering will be done with the heavy frosted finish, and the remaining fields will have the light frosted finish.

As for the reverse, the ribbon, arrows, and olive branch will use the brilliant polished finish, and similar to the obverse, the remaining design elements will have a heavy frosted finish, and the empty fields will be lightly frosted.

In order to put all these different finishes on the same coin, the Mint auto-polishes the coin dies using a horsehair brush for the uncirculated finish, and then it uses a laser for the heavy and light frosting.

In addition, the dies are given a physical vapor deposition coating to increase the life-span of the die. And the coins are struck three times on special burnished planchets.

Because the coin appears to be closer in appearance to a reverse proof than an uncirculated or burnished uncirculated coin, some people have questioned why the coin is classified as an uncirculated, rather than proof coin by the Mint.

Like a proof coin it has been struck multiple times, but according to the Mint that is not what distinguishes a proof from an uncirculated coin, especially since most of the proof and uncirculated coins the Mint makes for collectors are struck multiple times using specially-prepared dies.

According to a statement from the Mint, these are the unique features that make the coin enhanced uncirculated rather than proof rather than the number of times the coin has been struck: “The horsehair brush automated process creates a reflective surface of artwork elements, but cannot achieve a smoothness of the felt pad. The felt pad cannot polish relief and is generally used to polish the field of a proof die, resulting in a mirror like finish. The auto polishing with a horsehair brush results in a brilliant uncirculated finish. The dies then go through a laser frosting process to achieve a heavy laser frost or a light laser frost in areas as described above.

According to some comments from the Mint’s spokesman Michael White that appear in the April 8 issue of Coin World (www.coinworld.com), this is not the first time the Mint has used more than one finish on the same coin. He mentioned the examples of the 2012 September 11 medals and the 2012 Hawaii Volcanoes five-ounce silver America the Beautiful coin, which both use multiple finishes.

The enhanced uncirculated silver eagle was first reported by James Bucki, who writes about coins for About.com (http://coins.about.com). During a visit to the West Point Mint he saw the coins being struck, and wrote about them for his column and posted the first images of the coin. Mr. Bucki wrote that in his view the coins are really proofs rather than uncirculated coins, based on the ANA’s official definition of proof coins (http://coins.about.com/b/2013/03/19/is-enhanced-american-silver-eagle-uncirculated-or-proof.htm)

Since then other numismatic publications have picked up on the story, the Mint has released some statements and images of the coin (including the ones that appear here), and there has been quite a lot of discussion about the new finish in coin forums.

I would need to see the coins in person to be able to properly evaluate the new finish, but my initial impression is positive, and these coins are already generating a lot of excitement among silver eagle collectors.

Because the reverse proof finish has been used already three times prior to the release of the new sets, many collectors felt that the reverse proof approach was in danger of being overused and were eager for something different.

The enhanced uncirculated silver eagle appears to satisfy that desire for a coin that retains the same design, but presents it in a new and innovative way. As long as the new finish is not overused, it should be successful.

The inclusion of a new type of silver eagle could end up driving sales of the West Point sets higher than those of the San Francisco silver eagle sets released last year, as collectors will be eager to see the new finish. The San Francisco sets currently rank second lowest in mintage of the anniversary silver eagle sets after those issued in 2011 for the 20th anniversary.

At this time the Mint could not confirm whether the new sets will be released in the same way last year’s sets were, and whether they will be minted to demand. Last year buyers had one month to place their orders, and were able to buy as many as they wanted during that period.

With the 30th anniversary of the silver eagle approaching in 2016, a lot of collectors have expressed interest in a new design for the coin, either to be used only on the 2016 anniversary set, or to be used from that date forward. That is something the Mint should give serious consideration.

The silver eagle has already surpassed every other American silver dollar in terms of the number of years it has been minted with the exception of the Seated Liberty dollar.

golino portrait thumb The Coin Analyst: Could Cyprus Be the Catalyst for Upward Momentum in Gold?Louis Golino is a coin collector and numismatic writer, whose articles on coins have appeared in Coin World, Numismatic News, and a number of different coin web sites. His column for CoinWeek, “The Coin Analyst,” covers U.S. and world coins and precious metals. He collects U.S. and European coins and is a member of the ANA, PCGS, NGC, and CAC. He has also worked for the U.S. Library of Congress and has been a syndicated columnist and news analyst on international affairs for a wide variety of newspapers and web sites.

Louis Golino
Louis Golino
Louis Golino is an award-winning numismatic journalist and writer specializing on modern U.S. and world coins. He has been writing a weekly column for CoinWeek since May 2011 called “The Coin Analyst,” which focuses primarily on modern numismatic issues and developments at major world mints. In August 2015 he received the Numismatic Literary Guild’s (NLG) award for Best Website Column for “The Coin Analyst.” He is also a contributor to Coin World, where he wrote a bimonthly feature and weekly blog, and The Numismatist, the American Numismatic Association’s (ANA) monthly publication, where he writes a monthly column on modern world coins. He is also a founding member of the Modern Coin Forum sponsored by Modern Coin Mart. He previously served as a congressional relations specialist and policy analyst at the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress and as a syndicated columnist and news analyst on international politics and national security for a wide variety of publications. He has been writing professionally since the early 1980s when he began writing op-ed articles and news analyses.

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  1. Hi Louis,

    Thanks for the detailed write-up.

    I think these new images do a better job of showing off the new finish and I have to say that the coin looks very impressive. The strike also seems especially sharp and detailed, and I sincerely hope that all the coins look like this and not just this trial/sample strike. I am getting pretty excited about this product and will be looking forward to buying one.

    Let’s just hope for a reasonable price.

    I thought the factoid about this coin being the second longest-circulating silver dollar was interesting. I had never bothered to check its length of mintage against previous silver dollars.

    • Thanks a lot, CO. I agree these images really make a difference. When I saw the first ones, which were apparently taken with a microscope, I was not sure what I thought about the new finish. But now I am as excited as everyone else. It’s also nice to see our Mint lead the way.

    • Hello Mr.Golino 1/6/17
      Just read your article about the new proofs. But I had a question about older proofs. Maybe you could Help with my proof coin Question?

      On a 1960 lg.date Flat Pack Pf Set, All 5 coins Lack a Mirror finish to the Naked Eye!

      But at 2 X magnification ALL of them Show these fine Perfectly straight Striations from rim to rim, Field & Devices / Obv & Rev. Lettering and Date look normal, But the striations are inside ALL of the nooks.

      So far I’m Guessing they’re early die striations, but why would they be on all 5 coins in a Large Date pack? Didn’t the mint start with All Small Date cents then retool or did they make both Lg. & Sm. date and they’re all early strikes? If you have any clue ? I’d appreciate it!

      I do have 2 pictures taken with my cell phone, If you have any interest please reply.

  2. Louis,
    We just wanted to say thank you for the time you put in to researching each article, and along with the topics you choose to inform the coin hobbyist on. Since we follow 8 coin blogs that deal with American coins only, we realize you always add the best insight, and then describe the subject matter in a way that all, or most of the questions that a reader may have on said article/topic, is answered. This way, a collector is not fishing around on other coin blogs, or even google-ing it, so they can have their questions answered. I also noticed that you were the first coin writer to post the clearest pictures of this new 2013 eagle with the 3 shades. Nobody seems to have taken the time to get us very clear pics of what this really looks like. Most others have seen only a pic with the light playing distorted images of the coin. Well done on your persistence of supplying it, and helping us make a better decision as to if we will order the coin. You may also congratulate yourself, that you beat all the other posts with these clear photos. But most of all, it’s the insight that make me and my coin buying group, always visit Coin Week first, when we take our daily lunch hour. Then we follow with the “talking points” mid-day break, and that always adds a new twist on your facts/opinions. We would be lost w/o your coin subjects, and again, as my group, and I, say thanks for supplying us with your vast knowledge. You and a few others are always at the top of your game. So, many thanks from:

    DAVE in CT. and our coin group……

    • Louis,
      Since I am in charge of leaving the feedback from my coin buying club, I (we), wanted to bring up a very small point. On your recent article and pics on the Palladium coin, we all love this design, and we all ordered the silver version from Provident, the 1 ounce coin, and we all, except one co-worker, recd it late last week from Provident metals, and we were ‘WOWED’ at how nice it is for a silver round. Thanks to Provident for spending the necessary resources on the dye’s to get this coin stamped correctly. Although their is no relief on the coin, 4 of us carry it around in our pockets, just like the Australian High Relief and Morgan dollars that I continue to carry on my person, and purposely put these coins on the counter when I having my beers, at the local saloon, or watering hole. Just last week, when I was picking up my Chinese food, I (on purpose) needed to come up with 4 pennies, so I took out everything from my jean pocket, and put it all on the counter, plus 6 of the pennies were the 2012 Canadian (last year minted), and the owner just could not take his eyes off of what I know, he does not see every day. And that led to him asking me how much would I sell them for. I did sell him a complete roll of the 12′ Canada penny’s, and for $40, but the others, I said I wasn’t selling, but gave him a card for him to contact a honest dealer. Great conversation, and he loved the Mercury silver dollar. I have been carrying around this old coinage, and some current, for 2 years or so. It does add to getting a few into the hobby, besides starting a conversation !! Ok, Louis, I have to get back to work……DAVE in CT…….

    • Wow! Thanks, Dave. It is my pleasure to help out, and thanks so much for all your kind words. I do my best.

      By the way, I was a bit surprised the Mint would not confirm how the coins will be sold. There had been previous indications that it would be like the San Francisco sets, but perhaps the new EU finish coin has necessitated giving more thought to the best way to distribute the West Point sets.

    • Nick,
      No pre-orders yet. The Mint has not announced a start of sales
      or even how they will be sold. It is supposed to be sometime this spring, probably in May or June, which is what the online schedule says, but we will have to see.

    • Nick, the US mint does not do pre-orders, but try MCM coins on weekly basis starting in April, and pre-order early before the 70’s sell out. Then watch their prices for this set rise, depending on the sales, just like the SFO 75th set. I think I got my SFO set for $219.00 and free S@H. Not bad, since I can sell them for $350.00 or so, and where I sell them at. Even though the market is flooded with these, get a set, and do not forget when you order, for MCM to include the OGP (us mint box). That is nice to have. You may want to order one that isn’t graded, because after all, 69/70’s are graded subjectively, and I have submitted those sets to NGC, and one set came back at 69’s, and then sent them over to PCGS, and they both were graded 70’s. So it cost me extra money, but mee’s think they play games, and somewhat to have fools like me, to keep paying their submission fees. Also, as in FR/FS/ER. We should boycott some of the coins we send in, and be more like many country’s in Europe, where they bid on raw coins. This works in some cases, but not all. With all the fake/phony coins (china is destroying our hobby to some degree), it’s nice to know the higher price coins, and the coins that really have a special place in your heart, are genuine.Which then comes in where its worth buying or having your coins graded. It is an individual choice. My eyes are not great in detecting the fakes, so I buy mostly slabbed, or graded coins, but from mints such as ours, the US Mint, and I am purchasing directly from them, then I do not need their services. Good luck, and do not worry about getting your order in from the mint, wait a few days and let impatient collectors tie up the phone lines/internet the first day or week. Trust me, they all pay the price with what they do to their blood pressure. DAVE in CT..

  3. Great article!

    I look forward to seeing this set but what really caught my attention was that almost as an aside he mentions the Hawaii 5 oz collector ATB as the only other coin (the other application being a medal) where this multi finish has been used. I find that very interesting and have to wonder if this doesn’t add a bit to the Hawaii 5 oz allure.

    “According to some comments from the Mint’s spokesman Michael White that appear in the April 8 issue of Coin World (www.coinworld.com), this is not the first time the Mint has used more than one finish on the same coin. He mentioned the examples of the 2012 September 11 medals and the 2012 Hawaii Volcanoes five-ounce silver America the Beautiful coin, which both use multiple finishes.”

    If this multi finish makes the Eagle special wouldn’t it also affect the Hawaii collectibility? Just thinking out loud.

  4. Can’t wait. I bought 5 of the 2012 reverse sets. Now will get more of these 2013W sets. Is this the reason I cant find a VOLCANO anywhere? The only 5oz. VOLcano AT DEALERS IS 1 at MCM for $750.00 a little out of reach for some. But lower mintages & special ordering at the MINT. help build value.” RON I HEAR YOU” thank you COIN WEEK.


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