About U.S. Mint Coins | Gainesville Coins

U.S. Mint

By Gainesville Coins
Published May 21, 2015

The United States Mint is the world’s most trusted government mint, serving the American public for over 200 years. It has also earned the esteem of its peers around the world, providing fully guaranteed gold and silver coins for coin collectors both young and old. These U.S. Mint coins come in a wide selection of designs and sizes, giving collectors an array of choices and allowing precious metal investors to protect their wealth with gold and silver.

American Gold Eagle Coins

The American Gold Eagle coin is one of the best-selling gold coins in the world, with hundreds of thousands (and sometimes millions) of ounces of gold sold to the public each year. It is beloved for its patriotic design and is used by investors all over the world to protect their wealth. The U.S. Mint offers the Gold Eagle in several different sizes: 1 oz, 1/2 oz, 1/4 oz, and 1/10 oz.

Gold Eagles were the first gold coins produced by the U.S. Mint since 1933, when Executive Order 6102 stipulated that nearly all gold specie in the country be forfeited to the government. Particularly because of the Great Depression, gold coins were being hoarded by the public rather than spent as legal tender. In order to alleviate this hoarding, President Franklin Roosevelt took the executive action that is often referred to as the “Gold Confiscation Act.” Indeed, the U.S. government seized much of the private gold in the country and melted it down.

American Gold Eagle

No gold coins were minted in the United States until the introduction of the American Gold Eagle in 1986. The new coin would not use the 99.9% pure gold standard that many modern gold coins follow, nor would it return to the historical U.S. standard of 90% pure gold. Instead, the modern Gold Eagle was set at a gold purity of 91.7%, or 22 karats, with the rest of the balance made up by copper and a small amount of silver.

The silver content distinguishes the composition of American Gold Eagles from British “Crown gold,” which is also 22-karat but uses only gold and copper in the alloy. This is why Gold Eagles have a brighter yellow sheen than the orange-gold hue of British Sovereigns, South African Krugerrands, and other 22-karat gold coins. In addition, the use of the 22-karat purity makes the Gold Eagle more durable than 24-karat gold coins, which are much softer and subject to wear. The sturdier American Eagle gold coin is much easier to handle without any concern about loss of metal or alteration to the coin’s design. Despite its lower purity, the Gold Eagle still contains a full one troy ounce of fine gold content.

There are other reasons that the American Gold Eagle stands above its international competitors in the eyes of most coin collectors. The coin is recognized all over the world for its backing by the United States government, but also for the rich American symbolism embedded in its design. The Saint-Gaudens design of Lady Liberty graces the obverse (front) of the coin, an image widely considered to be the most beautiful of all U.S. coin designs. (It originally appeared on the $20 gold double eagle coin from 1907 to 1933.) The reverse design, created by contemporary artist Miley Busiek, embodies the American ideal of family values with its portrayal of a male eagle returning to its nest, where the mother eagle is tending to two baby eaglets.

American Silver Eagle Coins

The Silver Eagle is by any measure the best-selling silver coin in the world. Each of the last two years, the American Silver Eagle has set new sales records, with more than 40 million coins (that’s over 40 million ounces of pure silver!) sold in both years. Guaranteed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government, the Silver Eagle is the most trusted silver coin in the world.

Much like the case with gold coins in the United States, the production of coins containing silver was fully abandoned during the 1970s, when the last 40% silver half dollar and dollar coins were produced. It was not until the 1980s, with the resumption of the U.S. Mint’s dormant commemorative coin program as well as the introduction of the American Silver Eagle coin, that once again silver coins were made available to the American public.

American Silver Eagle

The Silver Eagle fittingly assumed the role of the nation’s new “silver dollar” thanks to its attractive and familiar design. It borrows the iconic Walking Liberty motif, which originally appeared on the half dollar from 1916 to 1947. This design was created by Adolph A. Weinman, the same artist who created the image for the Mercury dime released that same year (1916). Weinman gives Lady Liberty a brand new portrayal, as she is seen striding toward the rising sun in the east, her arm outstretched to welcome the dawn of a new day. The dress that Miss Liberty is wearing is actually Old Glory, the American flag, and it is swept in the wind over her shoulder.

The Walking Liberty design is also one of the most intricate of all U.S. coins. Like the Standing Liberty quarter, which was introduced the same year as the new half dollar bearing Weinman’s design, the Walking Liberty half had a very detailed design that lost much of its beauty when the high points of relief would wear away. For this reason, the return of the Walking Liberty design to the American Silver Eagle marked a great opportunity for collectors, silver stackers, and everyday observers to catch a glimpse of the design in its full detail and intricacy when modified to fit the larger 40 mm planchet of the .999 fine Silver Eagle.

While Walking Liberty graces the obverse of the Silver Eagle, the reverse design was created by former U.S. Mint Chief Engraver John Mercanti. The image, based on the Great Seal of the United States, is also reminiscent of the design based on the Presidential Seal that appears on the reverse of the Kennedy half dollar. In both cases, the design is dominated at the center by a bald eagle in heraldic pose, its wings spread wide as it seems to hover in the air. The rest of the design is also filled with American symbolism, such as thirteen stars representing the original thirteen colonies arranged in an upside-down triangle above the eagle’s head.

The American Silver Eagle enjoys widespread recognition for its classic design and its trusted silver content, as every Silver Eagle is guaranteed for its 1 troy ounce of .999 fine silver content by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government. This assurance makes the Silver Eagle attractive to traders, investors, and collectors all over the world, as its annual sales numbers over 2013-2014 are more than double its closest competitor.

The American Gold Buffalo Coin

The Gold Buffalo is the United States’ first ever 24-karat (99.99% pure) gold coin. While it is a favorite among precious metal investors for this reason, it is also well-known for its iconic design (the Buffalo nickel design), which shows the profile of an American Indian man facing right. This also makes the Gold Buffalo highly collectible!

With the runaway success of the American Gold Eagle, the Mint decided in 2006, after twenty years of issuing the Gold Eagle that began in 1986, it was time to release a true 99.99% pure gold coin in order to compete with similar 24-karat gold coins on the international market. While the Gold Eagle remains more popular (by total sales) than the Gold Buffalo, the latter is a great alternative to the former. Due to their more highly pure gold content and therefore softer surfaces, American Gold Buffalo coins are often certified by third-party grading services in order to preserve the condition of the coin while leaving it available for display.

American Gold Buffalo

The only year that multiple sizes of the Gold Buffalo were available was in 2008, when the U.S. Mint chose to issue a full set of Gold Buffalo proof coins. (Proof coins exhibit a highly reflective finish that allows the fields, or backgrounds, of the coin to stand out in contrast to the relief devices, which are given their own attractive frosting effect.) This is the only year that a size other than 1 troy ounce was issued in the series. The 2008 Gold Buffalo set included 1/10 oz, 1/4 oz, and 1/2 oz sizes of the coin, which had corresponding face values of $5, $10, and $25. (The regular 1-oz size carries a designated face value of $50.) These coins featured the same image as their 1-ounce counterparts, and are struck from the same .9999 fine gold content.

The obverse and reverse designs used for the American Gold Buffalo are adaptations of James Earle Fraser’s images used for the the five-cent nickel in 1913. The Indian Head nickel design, more commonly known as the Buffalo nickel, shows the right-facing profile of an American Indian chief. Fraser claimed that the portrait was a composite image of three different subjects, two of which he directly identified: Chief Iron Tail of the Lakota Sioux tribe, and Chief Two Moons of the Cheyenne. The third subject who posed for Fraser slipped the mind of the artist, causing innumerable men to come forward in the subsequent years and claim to be the third model.

For the reverse design, Fraser observed the American bison known as Black Diamond, who was held at the New York Zoo. The bison (also widely known as the buffalo) is an iconic American animal due to its association with the Old West of the 1800s. These majestic mammals were nearly hunted to extinction before their populations recovered and stabilized. The American Gold Buffalo coin uses the Type 1 design from the original Indian Head nickel, showing the buffalo standing upon a rounded mound of earth (as opposed to a flat surface).

Other U.S. Mint Coins

Other Modern Products From the Mint

The U.S. Mint also produces a variety of numismatic, or collectible, coins. This includes the America the Beautiful (ATB) silver quarters (which also come in the form of 5 oz silver coins), the gold Presidential First Spouse coins, as well as gold and silver commemorative coins celebrating the rich history of the United States! The Mint is always coming out with new designs and new themes for its coins, keeping collectors and precious metal enthusiasts busy!

The full catalog of offerings from the U.S. Mint is rather extensive, with new items being added each year as well as popular gold and silver coin series returning on an annual basis. These series not only give more options to collectors, but also generate publicity and extra revenue for the organizations and causes that are featured on the coins. For example, the sale of the U.S. Marshalls commemorative gold and silver coins for 2015 will help generate proceeds for the agency itself.

In total, the U.S. Mint has an incredibly large numismatic program, which encompasses all of the collector coins that the Mint offers outside of its regular circulating (also known as business strike) coinage. Hundreds of thousands (and in some cases, millions) of these special coins are issued by the U.S. Mint each year for the benefit of the coin collecting community.

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