2011 American Silver Eagle Coins Just Released

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!

Silver American Eagle ProofIf 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.

Topics: Financial NewsInvesting

7 Responses to “2011 American Silver Eagle Coins Just Released”

  1. I’ve really been struggling to try to understand the differences in bullion, proof, etc. Thanks for the descriptions here. What about the value growth potential for proof coins? Is it higher priced because it is more of a collectable and more sought after by collectors? Is there more opportunity for maintaining investment value if, for instance, the price of silver drops but the proof version remains more collectable?

    • Proofs are more expensive for at least two reasons. First, they are more expensive to mint. They used a special round and the coin is struck multiple times. Plus they are individually placed inside a case. Second, to your point, the are considered a collector’s item. But from a pure investment perspective, I believe the bullion is the best bet. It’s cost is closest to the spot price of silver, and there is still some added value because it’s an American Eagle.

  2. This article clears up a lot for me. I have been hearing so much about investing in silver and wasn’t sure what to do. I joined a network marketing company whose product is collecting gold and silver coins but I still did not understand why one coin sealed in a plastic container cost so much more than the coins that were not. Your article certainly makes things clearer.

  3. Very informative article, but I wish you had included more information on the difference between “burnished” and unburnished silver (other than one is shiner than the other). I would assume that the burnished silver is polished in some manner, but I’m sure that I can find that information by myself.

    • Joann, if you are going to purchase a single american eagle as a gift for graduation, I’d go with the proof version. They are stunning, and come in a display case. They cost a bit more, but for a graduation gift, they are ideal.

      Best of luck!

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