Silver Eagle Values - Complete Pricing Guide
The American Silver Eagle (ASE) was first released in 1986 as part of the American Eagle bullion program. American Eagle bullion coins were authorized in 1985 and the first silver eagles were released on November 24, 1986, becoming immensely popular with both investors and collectors from the beginning.
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The American Silver Eagle carries on its obverse the Walking Liberty design by Adolph A. Weinman, a motif first employed on United States half dollars struck from 1916 through 1947 and brought out of a 39-year retirement to appear on this iconic silver bullion coin. Meanwhile, the obverse carries a modern, stylized heraldic eagle by John Mercanti.
Types of American Silver Eagles
While the first decade of production saw a relatively staid lineup of ASEs, with conventional bullion quality (formerly called “uncirculated”) and proofs struck each year, in 1995 the West Point Mint struck a limited number of proofs for inclusion in the 10th anniversary gold eagle set. The 1995-W silver eagle was struck as a free bonus inclusion with the anniversary set, and only 30,125 were made. They quickly became popular with collectors, serving to this day as the rare regular-issue key date to the entire series.
Since the first decade of the 21st century, ASEs have been struck in several other numismatic varieties, including reverse proof and burnished finish. Striking duties for bullion-quality pieces originally went to the Philadelphia Mint and early proofs came from San Francisco. However, minting assignments have changed over the years, with Philadelphia striking proofs for a period in the 1990s and the West Point Mint assuming the vast majority of ASE production by 2000.
Here’s a breakdown of the major types of American Silver Eagles:
The bullion ASEs represent the base-level coins struck with the investor in mind. While they boast high-quality surfaces as is typical for all American Eagle bullion coinage, they are struck in very large numbers and are distributed by the United States Mint through a network of authorized dealers with somewhat less regard for finish preservation than bestowed upon numismatic strikes. They can be purchased for relatively small premiums over spot.
However, older ASEs are worth a fairly significant figure above spot values, as they are scarcer than more recent issues. Among the most valuable of the bullion-quality strikes are the 1986, 1994, 1995, and 1996, with the latter serving as the key date for all regular-issue bullion strikes.
The first proof American Silver Eagles were released in 1986 with the debut of the series and struck in all years except 2009, when a planchet shortage reportedly upended production of all non-bullion silver eagle coinage. Regular proofs are relatively common, so some of the earlier pieces are quite rare in grades of PR69 or above.
Silver Eagle Proof | image via USA CoinBook
The first reverse proof variant of the American Silver Eagle premiered as a Philadelphia-mint strike in 2006 and was made in small numbers.
The proof variety proved a success with collectors, and today the 2006-P reverse proof is relatively scarce due to sustained demand. Several other reverse proofs followed in 2011, 2012, and 2013, and these pieces all remain very popular with collectors; with a mintage of 99,882, the 2011-P reverse proof saw the lowest mintage among the four issues and is the most valuable of the reverse proof issues.
Reverse Proof Silver Eagle | image via USA CoinBook
Debuting the same year as the reverse proof, the first burnished silver eagle was released in 2006 hailing from the West Point Mint. They bear a finish similar to the bullion-quality releases but offer a somewhat matte sheen and are thus desired by collectors as a distinct numismatic issue.
Burnished ASEs have been made most years since their debut, with the exceptions of 2009 and 2010, during a period of huge demand for the bullion-quality silver eagles, for which planchets are allocated with utmost priority.
Burnished Silver Eagle | image via USA CoinBook
The first enhanced finish American Silver Eagle was released in 2013, featuring a uniquely frosted, specimen-quality finish. It is a special numismatic offering seldom seen on the ASEs. The United States Mint released its second enhanced finish silver eagle in 2019 with the Pride of Two Nations 2-Coin Set, coupling the 2019-W enhanced finish American Silver Eagle with a 2019 silver Canadian Maple Leaf coin.
Enhanced Finish ASE | image via USA CoinBook
Errors & Varieties
The ASE series offers a few interesting varieties. Perhaps the most popular and valuable of these is the 2008-W Burnished Reverse of 2007. An estimated 47,000 were struck and are worth huge premiums over regular-issue 2008-W Burnished Finish ASEs.
When the relatively few known errors do hit the market, they are typically garden-variety off-center strikes and blank planchets. Indeed, quality control at the United States Mints is quite high with all of its bullion coin programs, including the American Silver Eagle.
Collecting American Silver Eagles
It really goes without saying that the American Silver Eagle program is among the most popular of all bullion coin programs in the world. It’s not the oldest of the modern world bullion series—the gold South African Krugerrand gold coins came in 1967, the Canadian Maple Leaf debuted in 1979, Mexican Libertads were born in 1981, and the Chinese Panda program was unveiled in 1982.
But the American Silver Eagle, along with its American Gold Eagle counterpart (and late the platinum and palladium releases) are widely traded both in the United States and abroad and trusted by investors and collectors the world over. They are among the most frequently encountered coins in the precious metals circle.
Gold and Silver Eagle Comparison
While numismatic strikes are mainly intended for collectors, a fair number of investors also buy them to add some pizzazz to their holdings. Meanwhile, the bullion-quality ASEs also enjoy converse crossover appeal with collectors, many of whom build date sets spanning from 1986 to the present.
Many collectors pursue all types of ASEs, and the silver eagle registry set collecting objectives set forth by major encapsulation services Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) and Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) compel deep-pocketed collectors to buy super-grade examples in pursuit of the building the highest-quality collections possible.
Silver Eagle Coin Values
Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez is a journalist, editor, and blogger who has won multiple awards from the Numismatic Literary Guild. He has also authored numerous books, including works profiling the history of the United States Mint and United States coinage.
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