The American Silver Eagle is the official silver bullion coin of the United States. First issued in November of 1986, the coin was originally released as part of the American Eagle Bullion Program. This program was designed to utilize the national stockpile of both silver and gold. A bullion coin is valued by its weight in a specific precious metal. Its weight, content, and purity are all guaranteed by the government. The American Silver Eagle is struck in the one ounce size which has a nominal face value of one dollar and is government certified to have one ounce of .999 fine silver. However, it is not just the quality and assurance of content that has made the American Silver Eagle the most popular bullion coin in the world. This coin features exceedingly beautiful designs on both its obverse and reverse, truly making it a work of art.
The obverse design revives Adolph A. Weinman's“Walking Liberty” used on half-dollars of 1916 to 1947. It features a full-length figure of Lady Liberty walking leftward toward a rising sun. Around the sun, thirteen rays reach out, symbolizing the dawn of a new day. Liberty has an American flag draped across her shoulders and billows around her. She wears a flowing gown and simple sandals. In her left hand, she carries a bouquet of laurel branches, symbolizing military power, and oak branches, symbolizing civil glory. Her right hand is outstretched before her, opening her up to the possibilities of the world and the new day she walks toward. She has a calm, dignified expression and seems to be moving in an elegant, graceful stride. Behind her is a thirteen star US flag.
The reverse of the coin was designed by John Mercanti specifically for the silver bullion coin. Mercanti was inspired by the Great Seal of the United States, and portrays a heraldic eagle with the Union shield on its breast, looking to the right. The eagle grasps an olive branch in its right talon and arrows in its left talon, conveying a message of peace. A scroll flows across the center of the coin and is held in the eagle's beak. Floating above the eagle is an inverse pyramid of thirteen stars, representing the original thirteen colonies.
The United States Mint has created special issues of the American Silver Eagle coins. In 1993, the “Philadelphia Set” was created to celebrate the two-hundredth anniversary of the Philadelphia Mint - the oldest in the nation. This set included five proof American Eagle coins all minted in Philadelphia - a 1 ounce, 1/2 ounce, 1/4 ounce, and 1/10 ounce coin, and a 90% silver proof special medal bearing the Philadelphia mint mark. Other special issues soon followed. In 1995, the Mint issued a set to mark the tenth
anniversary of the silver bullion coin. This set was minted at the West Point Mint and was known as the“1995-W Proof Silver Eagle”. Later, the United States and United Kingdom created a set of their two bullion coins which consisted of a 2003 American Silver Eagle coin and a 2002 Silver Britannia coin. It was released in January of 2004. In 2006, in order to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the American Silver Eagle, the Mint released a three coin set that included a special reverse proof Silver Eagle coin, a burnished uncirculated coin, and a regular proof coin. The reverse proof coin had a frosted background and mirrored raised surfaces, while the regular proof coin had a mirrored background and frosted raised surfaces. The mint used special plates with an acid wash to attain the frosted look of the silver and pressed the coin multiple times to achieve a detailed and clear image. This “Twentieth Anniversary Silver Eagle Set” had a limited release of 20,000, making it a rather rare collection.
Recently, the U.S. Mint announced that it will be producing a special edition of American Silver Eagle bullion coins at the San Francisco Mint. There is no visible difference between the coins, and the special edition will not bear the 'S' mintmark of San Francisco. To distinguish these coins, the treasury will ship them in specially designed packaging. The Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) will certify these coins as products of the San Francisco Mint. The NGC will mark the label on the box with the 'S' mintmark in parentheses to indicate that it is not actually written on the coin. The label will also read “Struck at San Francisco Mint.”
The American Silver Eagle is uniquely the only silver bullion coin whose weight, content, and purity is guaranteed by the United States Government. The American Silver Eagle coin is an exquisite piece, minted with equal focus on beauty and quality. This coin has the unique position of having both monetary and aesthetic value, making it a beautiful coin that offers much more than inherent value.