|Value||1.00 U.S. dollar (face value)|
|Mass||31.103 g (1.00 troy oz)|
|Diameter||40.6 mm (1.598 in)|
|Thickness||2.98 mm (0.1173 in)|
|Years of minting||1986–present (bullion)
1986–2008, 2010–present (proof)
2006–2008, 2011–present (uncirculated)
|Designer||Adolph A. Weinman|
|Design||Heraldic eagle with shield and thirteen five-pointed stars|
The American Silver Eagle is the official silver bullion coin of the United States. It was first released by the United States Mint on November 24, 1986. It is struck only in the one-troy ounce size, which has a nominal face value of one dollar and is guaranteed to contain one troy ounce of 99.9% pure silver. It is authorized by Title II of Public Law 99-61 (Liberty Coin Act, approved July 9, 1985) and codified as 31 U.S.C. § 5112(e)-(h). Its content, weight, and purity are certified by the United States Mint. In addition to the bullion version, the United States Mint has produced a proof version and an uncirculated version for coin collectors. The Silver Eagle has been produced at three mints: the Philadelphia Mint, the San Francisco Mint, and the West Point Mint. The American Silver Eagle bullion coin may be used to fund Individual Retirement Account investments.
The design on the coin's obverse was taken from the "Walking Liberty" design by Adolph A. Weinman, which originally had been used on the Walking Liberty Half Dollar coin of the United States from 1916 to 1947. As this iconic design had been a public favorite—and one of the most beloved designs of any United States coinage of modern times, silver or otherwise—it was revived for the Silver Eagle decades later. The obverse is inscribed with the year of minting or issuance, the word LIBERTY, and the phrase IN GOD WE TRUST.
The reverse was designed by John Mercanti and portrays a heraldic eagle behind a shield; the eagle grasps an olive branch in its right talon and arrows in its left talon, echoing the Great Seal of the United States; above the eagle are thirteen five-pointed stars representing the Thirteen Colonies. The reverse is inscribed with the phrases UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, 1 OZ. FINE SILVER~ONE DOLLAR, and E PLURIBUS UNUM (on the banner that the eagle holds in its beak), as well as the mintmark if applicable.
The impetus of the American Silver Eagle bullion program ultimately comes from executive plans through the 1970s and early 1980s to sell off silver from the Defense National Stockpile. As the Wall Street Journal explained, "Several administrations had sought unsuccessfully to sell silver from the stockpile, arguing that domestic production of silver far exceeds strategic needs. But mining-state interests had opposed any sale, as had promilitary legislators who wanted assurances that the proceeds would be used to buy materials more urgently needed for the stockpile rather than merely to reduce the federal deficit." Throughout the period, such sell-offs that did occur, as well as announcements of planned sell-offs, caused immediate declines in the price of silver. The Wall Street Journal reported in September 1976, "When the US government makes noises about selling silver from the federal stockpile, futures traders start unloading futures contracts in speculation that such a sale would depress prices."
Despite congressional opposition to the sale of stockpiled silver through early June 1981, the House Armed Services Committee decided on June 10 to approve a Reagan administration request to sell government-owned silver beginning in fiscal year 1982 to help balance the federal budget. In July 1981, the House and Senate agreed to allow the sale of 75% of the stockpiled silver (105.1 million troy ounces) over a three-year period, and in September the price of silver fell 11% in response. Just before the first sale in October 1981, a group of politicians from Idaho—a major silver-producing state—attempted to block the auction, claiming that the sale could have a "disastrous effect" on the United States silver mining industry in general and several Idaho silver mining companies in particular. On December 3, 1981, Senator James A. McClure (R-Idaho) proposed an amendment (S.UP.AMDT.738) to the Department of Defense appropriation bill (H.R. 4995) to end the government's sale of silver "until the President, not later than July 1, 1982, redetermines that the silver authorized for disposal is excess to the requirements of the stockpile." The appropriations bill was signed into law (Public Law 97-114) with the amendment intact, effectively stopping the further sale of stockpiled silver.
On May 27, 1982, Senator McClure introduced bill S. 2598, "A bill to provide for the disposal of silver from the National Defense Stockpile through the issuance of silver coins," to "redirect the sale of silver from our national defense stockpile in an effort to minimize its affect [sic] on the already depressed price of silver." An identical companion bill, H.R. 6649, was introduced on June 22 by Representative Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho) but both bills were referred to committees and never were enacted. The Wall Street Journal reported on June 30 that the price of silver "soared after Interior Secretary James Watt announced that sales of the government's silver stockpile will be indefinitely postponed" as the government's legally required study on potential methods of selling the silver had been delayed.
On January 27, 1983, Senator McClure introduced another bill (S. 269) almost identical to S. 2598. As he had in the earlier bill, the senator asked,
... if we are forced to accept a sale, why use the method guaranteed to depress the price and dispose of the silver with the lowest possible return to the taxpayers[?] Why not instead, if we must sell, at least get as much for it as we can? Therefore, today, I am introducing legislation which provides that in the event the President proposes and Congress authorizes the sale of silver from the strategic stockpile, this silver would be sold through the minting and distribution of a silver-bearing coin.
Some two years later, with sales still suspended, Senator McClure again introduced legislation aimed at requiring potential sales of stockpiled silver to be conducted through the issuance of coins minted from the silver. This time his legislation took the form of an amendment (S.AMDT.418) to H.R. 47, the "Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Commemorative Coin Act". McClure's amendment—the "Liberty Coin Act"—added a new section (Title II) to H.R. 47. The amendment may be summarized into the following points:
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Proposed on June 21, 1985, the Senate agreed to McClure's amendment by voice vote on the same day and it was added to H.R. 47; the House approved the amended bill three days later and it was signed into law by President Reagan on July 9, 1985. Thus, the authorizing law for the American Silver Eagle bullion program is Title II of Public Law 99-61 (Liberty Coin Act) codified as 31 U.S.C. § 5112(e)-(h).
The authorizing legislation for the American Silver Eagle bullion program stipulated that the silver used to mint the coins be acquired from the Defense National Stockpile with the intent to deplete the stockpile's silver holdings slowly over several years. By 2002, it became apparent that the stockpile would be depleted and that further legislation would be required for the program to continue. On June 6, 2002, Senator Harry Reid (D-Nevada) introduced bill S. 2594, "Support of American Eagle Silver Bullion Program Act," "to authorize the Secretary of the Treasury to purchase silver on the open market when the silver stockpile is depleted." The bill was passed by the Senate on June 21 and by the House on June 27 and signed into law (Pub.L. 107–201, 116 Stat. 736) by President Bush on July 23, 2002.
The first American Silver Eagle coin was struck in San Francisco on October 29, 1986. Secretary of the Treasury James A. Baker III presided over the striking ceremony held at the San Francisco Assay Office. According to a Chicago Sun-Times article, as Baker "reached for the electronic button on press No. 105, he turned to the audience and said, 'I don't need a pick and shovel to start the San Francisco Silver Rush of 1986.'"
Bullion Silver Eagle coins do not have mintmarks. From 1986 to 1998, they were minted at San Francisco. From 1999 to 2000, they were minted at Philadelphia and West Point. Since 2001, they have been minted only at West Point along with San Francisco supplementing the production.
In March 2011, the San Francisco Mint conducted trial strikes of bullion Silver Eagle coins in preparation for the resumption of full production later in the spring. The added production capacity provided by the San Francisco Mint supplements the output of the West Point Mint.
From 1986 to 1992, proof Silver Eagle coins were minted at San Francisco and these coins bear the "S" mintmark. From 1993 to 2000, they were minted at Philadelphia and these coins bear the "P" mintmark. From 2001 to 2008, they were minted at West Point and these coins bear the "W" mintmark. No proof versions were minted in 2009. Beginning again in 2010, the proof coins were minted at West Point and bear the "W" mintmark.
From 2006 to 2008 and beginning again in 2011, the United States Mint issued a collectible uncirculated Silver Eagle coin produced at West Point (bearing the "W" mintmark). The coins are struck on specially burnished blanks and sometimes are referred to as "W Uncirculated" or "Burnished Uncirculated." Aside from the standard-issue burnished Eagles, there has been one burnished Eagle issue produced at San Francisco bearing the "S" mintmark for release in the "American Eagle 25th Anniversary Silver Coin Set."
The first significant variety of the Silver Eagle series appeared in 2008 and is known as the "2008-W Silver Eagle Reverse of 2007 Variety." The United States Mint made slight alterations to the reverse design between 2007 and 2008 and some 2008 uncirculated coins inadvertently were struck with the 2007 reverse type die resulting in a die error. The variety is distinguishable by differences in the "U" in UNITED STATES and the dash between SILVER and ONE.
As a result of the global recession, the demand from investors for bullion coins as a hedge against inflation and economic downturn surged. This increased demand began to affect the availability of American Silver Eagle bullion coins in February 2008 when sales to authorized dealers were suspended temporarily. In March 2008, sales increased ninefold from the month before (from 200,000 to 1,855,000). In April 2008, the United States Mint began an allocation program, effectively rationing Silver Eagle bullion coins to authorized dealers on a weekly basis due to "unprecedented demand." At least one observer has questioned the legality of the allocation program, as the Treasurer of the United States is required by law ( ) to mint and issue these coins "in quantities sufficient to meet public demand." On June 6, 2008, the Mint announced that all incoming silver planchets were being used to produce only bullion issues of the Silver Eagle and not proof or uncirculated collectible issues. The 2008 Proof Silver Eagle became unavailable for purchase from the United States Mint in August 2008 and the 2008 Uncirculated Silver Eagle sold out in January 2009 (however, it was available as part of the "2008 Annual Uncirculated Dollar Coin Set" until it sold out on January 28, 2010).
On March 5, 2009, the United States Mint announced that the proof and uncirculated versions of the Silver Eagle coin for that year were temporarily suspended due to continuing high demand for the bullion version. The allocation program that had been put in place in March 2008 was lifted on June 15, 2009, leading to speculation that proof and uncirculated versions might be produced before the end of the year. However, on October 6, 2009, the Mint announced that the collectible versions of the Silver Eagle coin would not be produced for 2009. The disappointment of collectors was expressed in a December 1 article by Representative Gary C. Peters (D-Michigan). Peters offered alternative scenarios to the cancellation of 2009 proof and uncirculated Silver Eagles and explained that he would be sending a letter to Mint Director Edmund C. Moy urging him to begin minting these products as soon as possible and continuing to do so until the end of the year. This effort was not successful and the collectible versions were not produced. The sale of 2009 Silver Eagle bullion coins was suspended from November 24 to December 6 and the allocation program was re-instituted on December 7; the product sold out on January 12, 2010.
Production of the 2010 Silver Eagle bullion coins began in January of that year (as opposed to beginning typically in December preceding the year of issue) and the coins were distributed to authorized dealers under an allocation program until September 3.
On July 20, 2010, Mint Director Edmund C. Moy provided testimony to the House Subcommittee on Domestic Monetary Policy and Technology on the matter of proof and uncirculated Silver Eagle coins, referencing the possibility of a legislative solution. Moy explained:
... [B]ecause we could not produce these popular coin products, those who had become accustomed to purchasing them on an annual basis were very disappointed. As Director of the United States Mint, I appreciate the disappointment of these collectors, but I am encouraged to know that the Subcommittee is exploring the possibility of an amendment to the law that would afford the Secretary the authority to approve the minting and issuance of American Eagle Silver Proof and Uncirculated Coins even when we are unable to meet the public's demand for the bullion versions of these coins. American Eagle coin collectors and our many other customers who purchase these products as gifts would likely welcome such a change. Indeed, such a change would be one of the most positive customer satisfaction measures that could be taken to benefit your coin collecting constituents without having an effect on American's [sic] ability to acquire investment-grade silver bullion. We have already provided you technical drafting assistance that your staff have requested to accomplish this change; however, such a change needs to be enacted soon. We can mint 200,000 per month, and if we can begin by September, we will be able to produce about 830,000 one-ounce silver American Eagle coins to meet collector demand for this product in the remaining months of 2010.
— Edmund C. Moy, Testimony of Edmund C. Moy, Director United States Mint, Before the Subcommittee on Domestic Monetary Policy and Technology, United States House of Representatives, July 20, 2010
On September 22, 2010, Representative Melvin L. Watt (D-North Carolina) introduced the "Coin Modernization, Oversight, and Continuity Act of 2010" (H.R. 6162) to amend 31 U.S.C. § 5112 (e) and (i) by giving the Secretary of the Treasury authority to mint American Eagle silver and gold coins in "qualities [e.g. bullion, proof, or uncirculated] and quantities" sufficient to meet public demand. The bill was signed into law (Pub.L. 111–302) by President Barack Obama on December 14, 2010.
On October 4, 2010, the Mint announced that 2010-dated proof American Silver Eagle coins would be available for purchase beginning on November 19, 2010, at a price of $45.95 per coin and that 2010-dated uncirculated Silver Eagle coins would not be produced.
In January 2013, the Mint suspended sales of American Silver Eagle bullion coins after the first week due to high demand. The Mint resumed the allocation program that had been implemened from 2008 to 2010.
|2006-P Rev. Pr.||-||248,875||-||248,875|
|2009||30,459,000||Not offered||Not offered||30,459,000|
|2011-P Rev. Pr.||-||99,882||-||99,882|
|2012-S Rev. Pr.||-||224,935||-||224,935|
Sales of American Silver Eagle bullion coins began on November 24, 1986, and initial inventories sold out "immediately due to the phenomenal demand."
Silver Eagle bullion coins, along with American Gold Eagle bullion coins, were planned as "viable investment alternatives to the gold and silver bullion coins produced by other countries. ..." To ensure wide distribution of the coins, the United States Mint awarded a contract to Grey Advertising to assist in marketing and publicizing the coins domestically and internationally. Advertising efforts were expanded in fiscal years 1987 and 1988.
Like the American Gold Eagle and American Platinum Eagle bullion coins, Silver Eagle bullion coins are not sold directly to the public by the United States Mint. In order to provide "effective and efficient distribution, which maximizes the availability of the coins in retail markets as well as major investment markets" the Mint utilizes a network of "authorized purchasers" to distribute the coins. The coins are sold in bulk at a premium ($2.00 per coin effective October 1, 2010) over the spot price of silver. The coins are sold to banks, brokerage companies, coin dealers, precious metal firms, and wholesalers that meet the following requirements:
Authorized purchasers must order a minimum of 25,000 coins which they sell to secondary retailers that sell them, in turn, to the public. When sales of Silver Eagle bullion coins began in November 1986, the Mint had approved twenty-eight authorized purchasers to market the coins throughout the world.
Bullion coins are shipped in so-called "monster boxes." Each green plastic box holds 500 coins which are packaged in 20-coin plastic tubes. On the lid of each box are two raised Department of the Treasury seals and the phrase "United States Mint" in raised lettering. Before shipping, the boxes are sealed with straps by the Mint and labeled with the year of issue and a serial number.
Proof American Silver Eagle coins dated 1986 through 2008 were sold directly to the public by the United States Mint at a fixed price. The coins were packaged in a protective plastic capsule mounted in a satin-lined, velvet-covered presentation case and accompanied by a certificate of authenticity. Proof Silver Eagle coins first became available through the United States Mint's subscription program in October 2002. Uncirculated coins dated 2006 through 2008 were sold directly to the public by the United States Mint in packaging similar to that of the proof coins; however, the 2006 coin's capsule was housed in a velvet drawstring bag. Special issues and sets are sold directly to the public by the United States Mint.
American Silver Eagle bullion coins carry a face value of US$1. This is their legal value reflecting their issue and monetization as coins. Per , the coins are legal tender for all debts public and private at their face value. This value does not reflect their intrinsic value which is much greater and is dictated by their silver content and the metal's spot price.
Mintages, and thus prices, of bullion, proof, and uncirculated Silver Eagle coins have varied widely, and the potential collector is advised to check a standard reference book before buying them. Generally, the bullion versions have been minted in the millions, while the proof and uncirculated versions were issued in the hundreds of thousands each. Most dates of the bullion issue are not particularly expensive (around $50 as of September 2011) and are traded at a premium above the intrinsic value of the silver they contain; most proof versions (around $85–$90 as of 2011) and uncirculated versions (around $55–$100 as of 2011) sell for more. Some issues sell for significant sums, for example the 1995-W proof ($3,500 as of 2011) and the 2006 20th anniversary set containing a special "Reverse Proof" coin along with a regular proof coin and the new "Burnished Uncirculated" coin (over $300 as of 2011).
This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Internal Revenue Service.
This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Congress.
This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Mint.
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