Bullion coins are produced and purchased primarily for investment purposes, to keep valuable assets liquid in case of a crisis. You can purchase bullion from anywhere, including foreign countries. The Silver Eagle from the United States Mint is one of the most popular bullion coins in the world, with 600 million of them struck per year. The attractive designs of the Silver Eagle coin make it popular with collectors as well, so the same design is also struck in Proof and Uncirculated finishes to sell as collectables.
History of the American Silver Eagle
By the 1970s, the United States government had accumulated a huge amount of silver stored in the United States’ Defense National Stockpile. The silver accumulated was more than the government projected that it would need. The original plan was to simply sell off the surplus, but members of Congress who came from districts where silver mining was common objected. The fear was that simply selling off the surplus of silver would cause the price of the commodity to go down, which would hurt mining companies. The decision to mint the silver into bullion coins before selling it was a way to get rid of the surplus without artificially depressing the price of the precious metal. After this compromise was reached, the U.S. Mint started producing Silver Eagle coins in 1986. As they are still popular, production continues to this day.
Design of the American Silver Eagle
The Silver Eagle coin gets its name from the reverse image of an eagle, an animal with great symbolic importance to the United States. From 1986 to 2020, the image was the figure of a heraldic eagle, closely resembling the design of the Great Seal of the United States. Wings outstretched, the eagle holds an olive branch in one taloned foot and a cluster of arrows in the other. The eagle’s head is turned toward the olive branch, representing peace. The eagle holds a banner in its mouth that reads “E Pluribus Unum,” a U.S. motto that means, “Out of Many, One.” Thirteen stars above the eagle’s head represent the first 13 British colonies that started the American Revolution.
As of 2021, a new reverse design has been introduced for the coin. It is still an eagle, but it is more naturalistic rather than stylized and symbolic. The new design was created by Emily Damstra and depicts a bald eagle coming to rest on the branch of a tree following flight. 2021 is the last year for the original design and the first for the new, meaning two Eagle designs are available for this year.
All versions of the Silver Eagle coin bear the same image on the obverse. The design is called the “Walking Liberty,” and it dates back to 1916. Created by Adolph A. Weinman, the “Walking Liberty” is loaded with symbolism representing American patriotism as the allegorical figure strides confidently into the dawn of a new day carrying laurel and oak leaves that symbolize military and civil achievements, respectively. The figure of Liberty is clad in the stars and stripes of the American flag, and her robes billow around her.
Interestingly, the Silver Eagle is not the first coin to bear the “Walking Liberty” design. It was first used on a 50-cent piece from 1916 to 1947. Even after the “Walking Liberty” half-dollar was discontinued, the design proved so popular that it was revived for the Silver Eagle.
Value of the American Silver Eagle
Each Silver Eagle coin is made of one ounce of 99.9% pure silver and has a face value of one U.S. dollar. But the ounce of silver alone commands more than 30 Canadian dollars, and the United States Eagle brand adds even more. Today, most Silver Eagle bullion coins fetch at least $40 Canadian and can go for more. Hang on to them, and see if they might soar higher.