By Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez for CoinWeek …..
The United States Mint has announced new reverse designs will be coming to the popular American Silver Eagle (ASE) and American Gold Eagle (AGE) coins in 2021. The silver and gold eagles, released in 1986 as the first coins of the United States Mint American Eagle bullion coin program, have retained the same designs since their inception. The design change is both necessary and symbolic. The new reverse designs will incorporate state-of-the-art security and anti-counterfeiting technology, and they will be unveiled during the 35th anniversary year of the American Eagle bullion coin program.
The obverses of the ASE and AGE coins feature timeless designs that many consider among the most beautiful ever produced by the United States Mint. The Silver Eagle features Adolph A. Weinman’s famous “Walking Liberty” as originally seen on the half dollar from 1916 through 1947, while the gold eagle coins carry Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ beautiful striding Liberty imagery from the $20 gold double eagle struck from 1907 through 1933.
When the American Eagle silver and gold bullion coins debuted in 1986, the classic Weinman and Saint-Gaudens motifs on the obverses were paired with modern designs from contemporary artists. Sculptor-engraver John Mercanti created a stylized Heraldic Eagle design for the ASE reverse, and Miley Busiek contributed her “Family of Eagles” reverse for the various AGE coins.
Only the vintage 1986 reverse designs will be changing – the classic obverse designs are staying put.
“United States Mint Director David J. Ryder has assembled an anti-counterfeiting interdisciplinary team within the Mint that is researching and reviewing both overt and covert options to enhance the protection of our bullion products, and we have made great progress in developing state-of-the-art anti-counterfeiting measures for bullion coins,” United States Mint Chief of Corporate Communications Todd Martin tells CoinWeek.
“We are prepared to implement changes that will enhance the security of the gold and silver bullion coin program, thus ensuring continued confidence in our bullion products for years to come,” he adds. “We are indeed planning a redesign of the American Eagle Silver and Gold coins in honor of the 35th anniversary of the American Eagle program, however, there are no plans to redesign the American Eagle platinum or palladium coins.”
The Creation Of New American Eagle Subtypes
The new reverse designs mark a new milestone for what are inarguably the most popular modern bullion coins in the world, not to mention the beginning of new subtypes for those who collect these bullion coins. Certainly, both the American Silver Eagle and American Gold Eagle coins enjoy much attention from coin collectors, who pursue not just the special numismatic-finish versions of these coins, but also the bullion-quality finish designed more patently for precious metals investors.
Perhaps the most important numismatic effect of new reverse designs for the silver and gold bullion coins is a numismatic book-ending for the earlier span of issues in these series, creating a tidy “finish” line for individuals who wish to terminate their collections of American Eagle coinage at a preset point. While relatively few collectors pursue the bullion-quality gold eagles date by date due to the cost of those higher-value coins, countless collectors assemble sets of ASEs by year.
It’s reasonable to believe that the promise of coming design changes for the ASE and AGE series will help usher in a wave of new collector interest for those coins. This may in turn help propagate more collector demand for the scarcer issues in those series, particularly for the silver eagles, which already enjoy a large crossover market between both investors and collectors and boasts several legitimately scarce issues.
Most notably those scarce ASEs include the 1994-P Proof, the 1996 bullion strike, the Burnished 2008-W Reverse of 2007, and the low-mintage 2011-W Proof and 2011-W Reverse Proof strikes. The indisputable key issue of the entire ASE series is the 1995-W Proof, which has a mintage of just 30,125 pieces and was included as a free bonus offering in the 1995 10th Anniversary Five-Piece Gold & Silver American Eagle Proof Set.
Meanwhile, the various AGE series, which encompass the $5 1/10th-ounce, $10 1/4-ounce, $25 1/2-ounce, and $50 1-ounce pieces, have a few scarce entries of their own. These include the 1999-W Uncirculated $5 and $10 error varieties struck by unpolished proof dies and the various West Point-minted Burnished specimens, each of which carries significant market premiums over their “regular” bullion-finish counterparts.
New Marketing Opportunities for American Eagle Coins
The silver and gold American Eagle coins already enjoy widespread appeal and are among the “gateway” coins that mass promotors advertise in non-numismatic, general readership publications to help lure new customers into the coin hobby. However, the advent of new American Eagle reverse designs offers innumerable opportunities for coin dealers to pitch the series to both collectors and non-collectors from a new marketing standpoint.
In the short term, collectors can expect to see a flurry of advertisements for the newly designed 2021 American Eagle coins, print and television spots for the “last-ever” silver eagles bearing Mercanti’s Heraldic Eagle reverse, increased spotlight on gold eagles with Busiek’s Family of Eagles motif, and much scholarly numismatic discussion on the new, yet-to-be-unveiled security technologies that will be incorporated into the new designs.
In the long term, collectors will see at least two new types of set collections unfold for the ASE – the 1986-2020 Heraldic Eagle reverse set and another collection based on the new yet-unnamed reverse design type. Obviously, new subtype-based sets will also be created for the four AGE series but, again, these sets are assembled with much less frequency than the relatively more affordable silver eagle series.
Subsequently, publishers and numismatic supply companies have vast opportunities to cash in on the new reverse designs by updating or creating new products reflecting these changes. The new designs will require a plethora of informational updates to a variety of coin books profiling the silver and gold American Eagles, and thus the creation of new editions for various existing text volumes.
We will also see the inevitable release of 1986-2020 albums, holders, and displays for the original ASE and AGE coins along with products emblazoned with the 2021-date run for the newer coins. The change will also necessitate the creation of update pages for the fancier coin albums with new page subheaders or titles narratively reflecting the new reverse design.
Time will tell what impacts the new reverse designs hold for the numismatic community, but the coming changes to the American Eagle silver and gold coins may prove to be among the most successful and popular initiatives from the United States Mint since the inception of the 50 State Quarters in 1999. Needless to say, all will benefit from the implementation of cutting-edge security features for the American Eagle coins, which have been the subject of an increasing number of convincing counterfeits in recent years. Meanwhile, the announced changes are creating a sense of great anticipation among collectors who have longed for fresh designs on the five silver and gold United States bullion coins that have remained virtually unchanged since the days of President Ronald Reagan and the Cold War.