The U.S. Mint just released for limited distribution the 2011 American Silver Eagle. Having purchased twenty 2010 Silver Eagle coins last year (pictured right), I had to snap up another 20 of the 2011 coins. They are simply stunning. You can purchase these coins either in proof or uncirculated. I’ve always gone with the uncirculated version (which cost less). I’ll discuss both types of coins, but first some background on the Silver Eagle.
Released on November 24, 1986, the Silver Eagle is America’s only official investment-grade silver bullion coin. It is also the world’s only silver bullion coin whose weight, content and purity are guaranteed by the U. S. Government. As described by the U.S. Mint:
In 1986, Liberty, as depicted by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, was selected as the design that would grace the obverse of the American Eagle Gold Coins. The Saint-Gaudens design first appeared on the United States’ $20, or double-eagle, gold piece in 1907, where it remained until 1933. Like their gold counterparts, American Eagle Silver Coins have been produced and sold in both proof and bullion finishes since 1986. They have always featured a rendition of sculptor Adolph A. Weinman’s magnificent Walking Liberty design, originally prepared and executed for the Nation’s first circulating half-dollar coin in 1916.
Types of Silver Eagles
There are actually three types of silver American Eagles, and understanding the difference can be a bit confusing. The three types are bullion, uncirculated, and proof. The confusing part is that bullion eagles are typically uncirculated (meaning they’ve never been used in commerce) and are advertised as such. But there is a difference between uncirculated bullion eagles and what the U.S. Mint officially calls uncirculated.
With bullion, which is what I buy, there is no mintmark on the obverse of the coin. From 2006 to 2008, the U.S. Mint produced what it called an uncirculated version of the American Eagle. It can be distinguished from the bullion version in two ways: (1) it has a “W” mintmark indicating that it was minted at West Point; and (2) it’s minted using a burnished coin blank (as is the proof version) which makes it shinier than the bullion version.
Because the U.S. Mint has not produced the uncirculated version since 2008, if you are buying current year Eagles the choice is simple–either buy the bullion version or the proof version. As described by the U.S. Mint, the proof version is quite distinctive:
American Eagle Proof Coins undergo a specialized minting process, which begins by manually feeding burnished coin blanks into presses fitted with special dies. The coin is struck multiple times so the softly frosted, yet detailed images seem to float above a mirror-like field. After scrutiny by white gloved inspectors, each American Eagle Gold and Silver Proof Coin is sealed in a protective plastic capsule and mounted in a handsome satin-lined velvet presentation case with its own official Certificate of Authenticity.
How much do they cost?
The price of a 1-once Silver American Eagle is based on the spot price of silver plus a premium for minting, distribution, and dealer profit. The price also depends on how many you buy, as dealers offer small discounts for larger orders.
In August of last year, I paid $440 for twenty silver American Eagles (bullion). Because the price of silver has risen significantly since then, the twenty 2011 Eagles that I just purchased cost me almost $700 (including $20 in shipping charges). I guess I should be happy that my first investment has done so well!
If you want the proof version, expect to pay twice as much as you’d pay for the bullion coin. Still, as the image to the right indicates, a proof coin is truly a thing of beauty.
If you want to invest in gold, silver, or other precious metals, check out the American Precious Metals Exchange. I’ve purchased from APMEX on several occasions, and have never been disappointed.
Published or updated September 22, 2011.