AMERICAN SILVER EAGLE BULLION COIN SECRETS WITH Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez
Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez has written hundreds of articles for various publications, including COINage. He has also authored several history books, including Images of America: The United States Mint in
Philadelphia (Arcadia Publishing, 2018). The award-winning author and journalist began collecting coins in 1992. His new book, A Guide Book
of American Silver Eagles, is scheduled for publication in November 2022 from Whitman Publishing (whitman.com).
How would you define American Silver Eagles?
American Silver Eagles are United States silver coins that were first issued in 1986. All contain one troy ounce of 0.999-fine silver. There are no fractional issues in smaller sizes. These coins were designed mainly as a store of bullion for precious-metals investors.
Numismatists enjoy collecting these coins as they have been continuously produced on an annual basis, with each issue bearing the date of their production and in recent years have been struck in a wide variety of nishes. Values currently range from about $30 for the most common bullion strikes to more than $3,000 for the 1995-W proof silver eagle, which is one of the rarest and most desirable issues in the series. A record price of $86,655 was recorded in 2013 for a specimen of the 1995-W proof graded PR70DCAM by the Professional Coin Grading Service.
While American Silver Eagles are monetized at one dollar and are legal-tender coins, their intrinsic silver value has always been much higher than their face value, thus making them economically impractical to spend as regular money. ese coins are not encountered in circulation, yet many people even outside the hobby recognize them from television commercials and advertisements in periodicals, where they are frequently oered as keepsakes and gis.
The silver eagle has long been considered America’s modern silver dollar.
How did American Eagle Silver bullion coins come about?
The American Silver Eagle debuted in 1986 and arose following years of
debate about how to disperse nearly
140 million troy ounces of silver from the United States National Defense Stockpile. There were a variety of players involved. Lawmakers and political executives wanted to sell the silver to help reduce federal deficits. Silver mining interests and bullion speculators were concerned about the market becoming flooded with silver, thus suppressing its prevailing price.
Ultimately, a compromise was reached where the silver would be converted into bullion coins, which were authorized under the Liberty Coin Act and signed into law by President Reagan on July 9, 1985.
Over the next year, designs were selected for the new silver coin, including a revival of Adolph A. Weinman’s vintage 1916 Walking Liberty design from the half dollar for the obverse of the silver bullion piece and a modern heraldic eagle reverse by sculptorengraver John Mercanti. e coin was released for sale on November 24, 1986, and became an instant hit.
What are three things about American Eagle Silver bullion coins that you discuss in your book that can’t be found elsewhere?
Two of the questions I have long had about the silver eagle were, “why were these coins named ‘eagles’?” and “why did the U.S. Mint choose the Weinman Walking Liberty design to anchor the coin?”
ese silver coins were not predestined by legislation to carry the “eagle” name, nor were they mandated by law to carry Weinman’s iconic Walking Liberty. So these were decisions made aer the silver eagle was signed into law.
I was grateful to receive colorful commentary from some of the people involved with the developmental and early promotional side of the American Silver Eagle and I think we answer these two questions and many others about the origin of the series rather thoroughly.
I also wanted to cover another topic that is not much discussed elsewhere – errors and varieties. I don’t think many people connote errors and varieties with the American Silver Eagle, perhaps because these coins are generally struck with meticulous care. e book covers the popular 2008-W Reverse of 2007 burnished variety – the “king” of varieties for the series – and other recognized varieties, along with a slew of errors.
is book is written in a vignette form, with many sidebars and subsections presenting information directly from subject-area experts and interviews with individuals involved with the series.
Do you collect American Eagle Silver bullion coins personally?
I started building a set of American Silver Eagles years ago. These are attractive coins that appeal to both my numismatic passions and my investment sensibilities. This is something I also address in the book – that American Silver Eagles represent the gateway between numismatics and investing.
What top two varieties should collectors and investors be looking at for profit?
Collectors should keep an eye out for the 2008-W Reverse of 2007 burnished silver eagle – a variety that might seem obvious to diehard silver eagle aficionados but could easily be overlooked by dealers or bullion brokers who are not aware that this variety exists.
Another great variety is the 1992-S doubled die reverse proof, with doubling in the mintmark, stars and the word “SILVER.”
How should people get started buying American Silver Eagle bullion coins? Is it worthwhile to assemble a Registry set?
Anyone who wishes to get involved with American Silver Eagles might first test the waters by starting a date set of the bullion-finish issues. Starting with the first issue in 1986 is great, but the recent debut of the new reverse design by Emily S. Damstra creates a bookend for the original Mercanti reverse design that ran from 1986 through 2021. This offers a launching point from 2021 with the current Damstra motif. Those who want to begin with a minimal outlay could start their silver eagle collections from 2021 with the new reverse design.
A date set in itself makes a pretty nice collection of American Silver Eagles and is a great foundation for expanding into proofs and varieties. Collectors who want to up their game could work on this in conjunction with a set registry, which fosters fun competition among collectors vying to claim the “best” set around. With the silver eagle series, there are some surprising challenges in obtaining the earlier dates in MS-70. Those who own those tough conditional rarities certainly have a chance to show off what they’ve got on a set registry platform.
How many Mint State-68, Mint State69 and Mint State-70 American Silver Eagle 1-ounce coins have been graded respectively by the Professional Coin Grading Service as of July 2022?
All PCGS ASEs in MS68: 2,295,856 All PCGS ASEs in MS69: 1,791,119 All PCGS ASEs in MS70: 2,115,086
Are the high values of some of the Mint State-70 coins sustainable?
Ultimately, the best of the best will always demand high premiums, and if populations of these “best” silver eagles remain low against a large number of collectors who demand them, then prices should remain buoyant. Among the many things the silver eagle series has going for it is a large base of collectors – arguably among the largest numbers of enthusiasts boasted by any U.S. coin series. This, coupled with the throngs of investors around the world who are active buyers of these coins, bodes well for the long-term vitality of the American Silver Eagle.