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The Coin Analyst: U.S. Mint to Release West Point Silver Eagle Set May 9

by Louis Golino for CoinWeek ………

This spring is shaping up as a busy period for the U.S. Mint and an exciting, albeit expensive one for collectors of modern U.S. coins because so many coins are being released in rapid succession.

On the heels of the release of the regular and silver proof sets, new presidential and Native American dollars, and other popular products, the Mint is about to release one of the most anticipated sets of the year, the two-coin 75th anniversary of the West Point Mint Silver Eagle set.

In addition, the Mint recently repriced some of its silver coins after the decline in spot silver prices such as the proof Silver Eagle, five-ounce silver coins, and the uncirculated dollar set, which sold out the day after it was repriced. The 2012-W burnished Silver Eagle is now officially sold out from the Mint, and it is the lowest mintage coin in the burnished uncirculated series with a final mintage that will be close to the mintage of the 2006 reverse proof coin, which sold a little under 250,000. I expect its value to increase.

west_point_setThe West Point Silver Eagle set is the fourth special Silver Eagle set to be released by the Mint after the 2006 20th anniversary, 2011 25th anniversary, and 2012 San Francisco anniversary sets. Each of those sets included one or more coins that were unique to that set, usually a reverse proof coin.

This year’s sets will include two coins that will be unique to the set, and will also include a first for the series, an enhanced uncirculated coin that uses the Mint’s new laser frosting techniques to create a coin with multiple finishes .

After the fuss last year that ensued after the Mint also released the San Francisco proof coin from the 2012 set in the Making American History coin and currency set, the Mint made clear that the coins in the new set will definitely be unique to the set.

In addition, they will be sold to demand for four weeks beginning on Thursday, May 9, and the number of sets sold will be indicated once a day, presumably with a sales counter like last year. It will be priced at $140 after initially being listed at $150 before the major drop in silver prices.

Modern equivalent of Morgan dollar

Contacted for this article, numismatic analyst Eric Jordan, author of the acclaimed book, Modern Commemorative Coins (Krause, 2010) and co-author with John Maben of Top 50 Modern Coins (Krause, 2012), said: “Special issue Silver Eagle Dollars with mintages in the 99,981 to 250,000 range are very collectable. I you don’t believe it go try to buy a relatively common 1994 proof Silver Eagle with a mintage of 372,000 for $65.”

“The new 2013 Special Issue West Point two coin Silver Eagle set is only available for four weeks, and it’s important that those of us who recognize the fundamentals of this massive series pickup offerings like this as they come to market along with low mintage mint state issues on a consistent basis.”

Mr. Jordan sees the reverse proof and other special Silver Eagles as a subset of the Silver Eagle set that has great potential, particularly because “the Mint has been producing reverse proof Silver Eagles on a consistent basis for the last few years, and it looks like they will continue to do so. This short good looking and relatively low mintage reverse proof subset is picking up a strong collector following.”

Moreover, he believes the entire Silver Eagle series will continue to have great potential as a collectible coin series in large part because it is the modern equivalent of the Morgan silver dollar, a coin with a large population that “acts as a constant silent advertisement for the series,” high silver content, surface finish variations, affordable, easily obtainable high-quality examples, and “a heavily staggered mintage chart with high population common dates and low population siblings.”

Mr. Jordan sees what he calls “series maturity” as an important factor helping to drive interest in coins like Silver Eagles that have clearly reached that status.

Mr. Jordan also points out that within the next year the total population of silver eagles is expected to surpass that of the “mighty Morgan dollar,” and if silver eagles continue to sell 30-40 million coins a year, within seven years there will be more Silver Eagles in existence than the combined population all prior silver dollars of all kinds minted between 1794-1935 after factoring in the Pittman Act melts.

In fact, he even believes that the series is “getting so large so fast that it could serve as an alternative hard currency if called on to do so at some point.” The coins are legal tender and their silver content is backed by the government, and they are the type of coins which will likely be used by states that are currently seeking to use precious metal coins as currency.

New design?

Finally, collectors who have grown tired of the current Silver Eagle design will be interested to know that the Citizens Coinage Advisory Commission has recommended that the design be changed.

In my recent interview with Gary Marks, Chairman of the CCAC, he noted that the commission has in recent years recommended that the coin be redesigned “in line with the requirements of the original 1986 enacting legislation.” The law simply calls for an obverse with a Liberty design and a reverse with an American Eagle. So the CCAC recommended modern designs that meet those requirements. However, so far this proposal has not been implemented.

The upcoming 30th anniversary of the series in 2016 would seem to provide an excellent opportunity to either change the coin’s design, or to issue special anniversary coins with a new design.

Changes to surface finish have added to the collectability of the series, as Mr. Jordan explained, but that approach can only go so far and should not be overdone. Eventually collectors will want a more radical change, although today there are many who prefer to keep the design as it is.

Louis Golino is a coin collector and numismatic writer, whose articles on coins have appeared in Coin WorldNumismatic 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 ANAPCGSNGC, 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. Based on today’s sales report from the Mint the 2012-w burnished eagle has a tentative final mintage of about 232K. The previous low coin, the 2011-W, had a mintage of over 400K.

    • We believe Louis that the figures as stated from the U.S. Mint weblog cite:

      2012 W Uncirculated Silver Eagle

      We covered the 2012 W burnished silver eagle closely because we knew it was headed for the record books. In mid-March, the U.S. Mint stopped offering the issue at a total mintage of only 202,504. However, they were still selling this coin as a part of the annual dollar 6 coin set. May 3rd, the Mint announced a sell out of this set with a total mintage of 28,368. Add the two together and there are only 230,872 coins that exist making it the 4th lowest minted silver eagle in the entire series across all die formats. Now that is impressive!

      Is this the correct number Louis? Thank you very much.

  2. I’ve enjoyed this article very much Louis, most informative, and well written. To speak of the 2012W burnished, brought me back to that time when I purchased an over amount, due to the fluctuating prices. I thought that I had made an error with the amount I purchased, but the numbers are small, as you point out.

    The two coin set released May 9, will most likely be the footing as to which direction the U.S. Mint will move. I see more value in the burnished Eagles. There is supposedly laser, frosting, and polished surfaces in the ‘Enhanced’ version. Do you believe Louis that the U.S. Mint will carry this line in the future, or condense everything; Proof, Uncirculated, Reverse, and Enhanced in a set?

    Thank you Louis for the very fine commentary, and analysis, regarding all facets of numismatics.

    • Thanks for all your kind words, synoptic12. I agree on the 2012-w, which may be the big sleeper on silver eagles. If you find an MS70 for $100, I would grab it, as I expect those to go up if the demand is there in coming months and years.

      On the Mint’s future plans, it is really hard to say at this point, but I would anticipate more coins with special finishes.
      Stay tuned as I will be covering these issues again soon.


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