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United States Silver Eagle
Government issued silver bullion coins from the United States

United States Silver Eagle

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 reverse of the bullion Silver Eagle will be redesigned in 2021 and will include anti-counterfeiting measures. The new features will be introduced later on the proof and other numismatic Silver Eagles.

The impetus of the American Silver Eagle bullion program came from executive plans through the 1970's and early 1980's to sell off silver from the Defense National Stockpile. 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 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 that period, such sell-offs that did occur, as well as announcements of planned sell-offs, caused immediate declines in the price of silver.

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. An amendment was proposed to the Department of Defense appropriation bill to end the government's sale of silver "until the President, not later than July 1, 1982, re-determines that the silver authorized for disposal is excess to the requirements of the stockpile." The appropriations bill was signed into law with the amendment intact, effectively stopping the further sale of stockpiled silver.

On May 27, 1982, a Senate bill was introduced to provide for the disposal of silver from the National Defense Stockpile through the issuance of silver coins and to redirect the sale of silver from our national defense stockpile in an effort to minimize its effect on the already depressed price of silver.  An identical companion bill in the house was introduced, but both bills were referred to committees and never were enacted. 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.

Two years later, with sales still suspended, legislation was reintroduced 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 to the "Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Commemorative Coin Act".  The amendment authorized the Secretary of the Treasury to mint and issue silver bullion coins; created coin specifications including diameter, weight, fineness, general design, inscriptions, and edge finish; provided for coin sales; defined numismatic and legal tender statuses; required purchase of silver from stockpile; and stipulated that no coins may be issued or sold before September 1, 1986.  Both the Senate and the house passed the bill thus authorizing law for the American Silver Eagle bullion program.

The first American Silver Eagle coin was struck in San Francisco on October 29, 1986. Bullion Silver Eagle coins do not have mint marks. From 1986 to 1998, they were produced at the San Francisco Mint. From 1999 to 2000, they were produced at the Philadelphia Mint and West Point Mint.  From that point on, they have been produced at the West Point Mint.  

The American Silver Eagle is the second longest continuously minted government bullion series, surpassed only be the Mexican Libertad.  As such, it has gained prominence as an investment coin around the world.  Silver Eagle bullion coins, along with American Gold Eagle bullion coins, were planned as a viable investment alternatives to the gold and silver bullion coins produced by other countries. Advertising efforts were expanded in the earlier years of 1987 and 1988 to promote the issues around the world. In recent years, strong international demand for American Silver Eagles has materialized, especially in Asian markets. Markets such as Hong Kong, Singapore and even China are becoming trading hubs with transparent bid and ask spreads.

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 of $2.00 per coin 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: be an experienced and established market maker in silver bullion coins; provide a liquid two-way market for the coins; be audited annually by an internationally-accepted accounting firm; have an established broad base of retail customers to which to distribute the coins; and have a tangible net worth of $5 million. 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.

American Silver Eagle bullion coins carry a face value of US$1. This is their legal value reflecting their issue and monetization as coins. 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 than their $1 legal tender face value. American Silver Eagle Coin prices and premiums are mainly dictated by the fluctuating silver spot price and ongoing supply-demand factors for this most often purchased silver bullion product worldwide. They are minted with 1 Oz of .999 Fine Silver.


Silver Bullion Mintage

Year1 OzYear1 OzYear1 OzYear1 Oz
19917,191,06620019,001,711201140,020,0002021 T113,306,500
19925,540,068200210,539,026201233,742,5002021 T214,968,500



Obverse: 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. Above the central image of the Walking Liberty is inscribed the word "LIBERTY". The motto of "IN GOD WE TRUST" is inscribed on the lower right. The year of issue can be found directly below the central image.

Reverse: 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" above the eagle and "1 OZ. FINE SILVER~ONE DOLLAR" below it. The motto "E PLURIBUS UNUM" is inscribed on the banner that the eagle holds in its beak.

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