By Bullion Shark LLC ……
Gold bullion coins are coins whose value is primarily based on their gold content and are aimed mainly at gold investors. They are usually legal tender, which means they have a monetary value guaranteed by the government.
Back in the early 1980s, the gold bullion coin market did not include any American gold coins. It was dominated by the South African gold Krugerrand that debuted in 1967.
At the time, Krugerrands were the most popular bullion coin and accounted for 90% of the international gold bullion coin market. But the coin’s popularity took a massive hit after it was banned for sale in the U.S. because it was a symbol of the oppressive South African regime that treated its non-White population as second-class citizens.
American Eagle Gold Coin
As this was happening, plans for an American gold bullion coin were being developed in Congress by Representative Ron Paul (R-TX22), a longtime gold proponent who favored a return to the gold standard. Working with the Reagan Administration, the coin that emerged was the American Eagle gold coin known simply as the American Gold Eagle.
Rep. Paul’s legislative efforts never became law, but they inspired two other members of Congress – Senators Jake Garn of Utah (R) and J. James Exon of Nebraska (D) to introduce a bill authorizing the creation of an American gold bullion program that would include four sizes of coins – $50, one-ounce; $25, half-ounce; $10, quarter-ounce; and $5, tenth-ounce. A modified version of this became the Gold Bullion Coin Act of 1985, which President Ronald W. Reagan signed into law.
Treasury Secretary James Baker selected Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ famous $20 double eagle gold coin obverse, which shows Lady Liberty carrying a torch in her right hand and an olive branch in her left hand, for the obverse of the new bullion coin. The reverse design he chose was called A Family of Eagles and was designed by sculptor Miley Busiek.
Busiek’s inspiration for her design was Reagan’s 1980 acceptance speech for the Republican nomination to run for president in which he called America a family in which people needed to help each other. She created a sculpture for the Reagan inaugural, and miniature versions were given as gifts, including to the American hostages in Iran who were freed right after Reagan was elected.
She then went to Washington and lobbied Congress to use her design on the new American Eagle gold coins she had read about. When the legislation was written, it did not mention her by name but it described what was clearly her design.
Bullion and Proof
Since 1986, American Gold Eagles have been issued in those four different sizes as gold bullion coins and also in four sizes struck meticulously in Proof for collectors and sold in attractive boxes directly by the United States Mint to consumers through mail order and at gift shops at its various Mint locations. Later, after the internet emerged and became a major source of commerce, the Mint launched a website where buyers can purchase the coins, which are sold at a premium over the gold content.
The bullion version of the American Gold Eagle is not sold directly to buyers but rather through a network of authorized purchasers who obtain the coins from the Mint for a certain percentage of their gold content and then sell them to consumers for a slightly higher percentage over their gold value.
Although the bullion coins were initially aimed at people who invest in gold as a commodity rather than coin collectors, with time they were collected, too. Many of those who collect these coins focus on one particular size since it would be very costly to collect all of them.
In 2006, a third finish was introduced. It is known as the Burnished Uncirculated coin and is issued annually in the $50, one-ounce version. However, from 2006 to 2008, it was also issued in fractional sizes too (i.e., the $25, $10, and $5 gold coins).
These coins are struck on specially burnished planchets and receive a treatment that gives them a satin finish as opposed to the more reflective finish of bullion coins. They also feature a “W” mint mark for the West Point Mint where they are produced.
Although the American Gold Eagle has some competitors such as Maple Leaf Gold coins from the Royal Canadian Mint and the Austrian Gold Philharmonic coin as well as others, it soon became the dominant gold bullion coin within the American market.
For that reason, these coins tend to sell for a higher premium over their gold value than other gold bullion coins and that includes the price you get when you decide to sell your coins.
New Reverse Design
After using the same designs for 35 years – a period when millions of these coins were sold – in 2021, the U.S. Mint launched a new reverse design that is now used on all American Gold Eagles.
That design is the creation of artist Jennie Norris and features a left-facing, close-up profile of the head of an American bald eagle with great detail on the dense plumage of the bird who has a fierce gaze.
Norris is a graphic designer and illustrator who loves nature and wildlife. She has even worked as a raptor handler. Her eagle design is very different from not just the family of eagle designs it replaced but also all the various eagle designs that appeared on American coins from the founding of the Mint to the present.
She said that she gave the bird such an intense gaze in order to capture the nobility of America’s national bird and the pride and wisdom they symbolize.
Demand for these coins remains stronger than ever, and coin dealers can barely keep them in stock partly because there has been so much demand for physical gold since the start of the pandemic in early 2020.
2023-dated American Gold Eagles are being struck now at the West Point Mint in preparation for being sold beginning in January 2023.