One of the most popular designs in American coinage, the Silver Eagle combines beauty with Silver bullion appeal.
First released November 24, 1986, the 1 oz Silver American Eagle quickly became the most popular Silver bullion coin not only in the United States, but in the entire world. The initial run sold out immediately “due to the phenomenal demand.” The Silver Eagle enjoys a special prestige as the only Silver bullion coin backed by the U.S. government. In fact, this Silver coin is so highly sought after that in 2014 and 2015 the U.S. Mint could not match its level of production to consumer demand. In 2013, after a historic drop in Silver prices, demand increased so much that the U.S. Mint had to ration the sale of Silver coins for 18 months.
The driving force behind the creation of the Silver American Eagle was the government’s desire to sell off some of the Silver from the Defense National Stockpile. Although states with heavy mining interests and some legislators opposed the sale of the Silver, in 1985 the Senate agreed to permit Silver sales. In 2002, after it became apparent the stockpile of Silver would be depleted, an additional bill was passed that would allow the government to purchase Silver on the open market once it became necessary.
The design of this particular Silver bullion coin is steeped in American heritage and tradition. On the obverse of the coin is an adaptation of Adolph A. Weinman’s “Walking Liberty” design, which was originally used on the Walking Liberty Half Dollar from 1916 to 1947. This iconic artwork was beloved by American citizens and thus was a natural choice years later as the mint selected historic designs to appear on the 1 oz Silver American Eagle. The reverse features a heraldic eagle holding an olive branch in one talon and arrows in the other with a shield on its chest. In its beak, the bird carries a banner reading, “E Pluribus Unum.” Above the eagle are 13 stars, a representation of the original 13 colonies. This image harkens to the Great Seal of the United States.
These Silver bullion coins do not bear mintmarks, differentiating them from the Proof and Burnished versions, which do include a mintmark. From 1986 to 1998, they were manufactured at the San Francisco Mint. From 1999 to 2000, production was moved to the Philadelphia Mint. Since 2001, the 1 oz Silver American Eagle has been produced at the West Point Mint in New York, which is colloquially called the “Fort Knox of Silver.” Starting in 2011, due to the coin’s immense popularity, the San Francisco Mint began minting Silver American Eagles to supplement the output from the West Point Mint.