The U.S. Mint made its first foray into the modern gold bullion market in 1986 when it introduced the American Gold Eagle series of coins. In the more than three decades since its debut, the Gold Eagle has earned its place among the most popular gold coins for investors and traders across the global marketplace.
In this way, the 1 oz American Gold Eagle (occasionally abbreviated "AGE") is inextricably building upon the legacy of the world's first truly "modern" gold bullion coin, the South African Krugerrand.
The Connection Between Krugerrands and American Gold Eagles
The Krugerrand was the first internationally traded gold coin produced in the post-WWII era. This period was characterized by the end of government mints issuing legal tender gold coins for circulation and regular use in commerce.
It is true that all of today's bullion coins produced by governments around the world owe their existence to the model set by the Krugerrand. However, more so than any of its counterparts, the Gold Eagle embodies the success and legacy of the Gold Krugerrand.
Both coins, for instance, are struck from the same 22-karat purity of gold. This means the coins are 91.67% pure gold by composition, also known as .917 fine gold.
This is a departure from other gold bullion coins offered by state mints. Other countries generally use 24-karat gold that is at least .999 fine (99.9% pure).
However, the rest of the makeup of the American Gold Eagle is different than the Krugerrand, which is balanced with 8.3% copper for an alloy that is nicknamed "Crown gold." This is because the same ratio of gold to copper was used in the most trusted gold coins of the British Crown dating back to medieval times.
Rather than entirely balancing the alloy with copper, each Gold Eagle is struck from a unique mix of metals: 5.33% copper, 3.0% silver, and the aforementioned 91.67% gold.
Not only is this combination of metals not commonly seen with any other coin in the world, it also imparts an attractive and consistent color onto each AGE coin. Moreover, it gives the coins an added level of durability from a functional point of view.
This is an especially important consideration when the Gold Eagle is compared to gold bars or gold coins that are 24 karats pure: These purer bullion products are surprisingly soft to the touch and therefore they are not particularly easy to handle in trade.
Nonetheless, this does not mean that the standard 1 oz American Gold Eagle has less gold than its peers. Despite its different purity, each Gold Eagle contains 1 troy ounce of fine gold content by weight.
The U.S. Mint's decision, as stipulated by the Congress, to use an alloy that includes silver and copper in addition to gold simply means that the gross weight of the one-ounce American Gold Eagle is slightly higher (33.931 grams) than most other gold bullion coins.
The Act of Congress that authorized the parallel gold and silver series of the American Eagle bullion coin program went into effect in 1986.
The timing was far from coincidental: The mint's introduction of a gold bullion coin came during a period under President Ronald Reagan when there was an embargo enforced against Krugerrands due to strong opposition to South Africa's system of apartheid.
The Idea of a Sound Money Alternative Returns With U.S. Bullion Coins
On top of this, the Reagan years (1981 to 1988) were also a time of renewed interest in the use of gold as sound money -- given the upheaval, stagflation, and economic crises of the 1970s. The Gold Commission, which studied the history and logic of gold coins serving as money, was conducted under President Reagan during his first term in office.
Again, the timing of these developments was hardly a matter of coincidence. The decoupling of the U.S. dollar from gold in 1971, and the subsequent decade of crisis for the American economy that followed, helped set the stage for gold to return to coinage.
Gold coins had not been issued by the U.S. Mint since 1933 prior to the American Gold Eagle. The only exception was a commemorative gold coin issued in 1984 in honor of the Summer Olympics held in Los Angeles, California.
The difference this time was that these new bullion coins would not be intended for commercial circulation, even though they did carry legal tender status. Nor would they be commemorative coins that were necessarily made for collectors.
Investors choose the American Silver Eagle and American Gold Eagle because of their intrinsic value as bullion. Not only does owning physical precious metals provide a hedge against inflation in a portfolio of traditional investments like stocks and bonds, but it also adds much-needed liquidity when traders or retirees need to raise extra cash quickly.
Moreover, the high durability of the Gold Eagle's metal alloy described above makes these coins a reliable vehicle for trade or transporting wealth across international borders. Wear and tear are far less important with a sturdy 22-karat gold coin rather than a .999 fine (or better) coin, which is fairly soft and prone to contact marks or other kinds of damage.
The usefulness of the Gold Eagle as a bullion coin has become even more important given the recurring problem of overspending by and mounting indebtedness of the federal government. Several U.S. states -- more than two-thirds of the country's states, in fact -- have either passed laws or amendments to their state constitutions eliminating sales tax on bullion coins.
This wave of new laws has the effect of recognizing the monetary nature of gold and silver. They open the door for greater use of precious metals in all sorts of transactions, providing an alternative to using paper dollars or other forms of fiat currency.
These gold and silver coins were both authorized by the same legislation. In the three decades since, the United States Mint has also expanded into Platinum Eagle coins (beginning in 1997) and even Palladium Eagle coins (beginning in 2017).
Different Features of the American Gold Eagle Coin
Between 1986 and 1991, the year-date on the Gold Eagle coin was expressed in Roman numerals -- just like the original 1907 Saint-Gaudens double eagle. Like the original artist, mint officials found this style choice to be more artistic than the standard date using the more familiar Arabic numerals.
Augustus Saint-Gaudens was perhaps the most important artist involved in the rebirth of U.S. coinage at the turn of the 20th century. Along with several of his acolytes, he was personally commissioned by President Theodore Roosevelt to redesign almost every American coin denomination.
Saint-Gaudens was tasked with creating new expressive designs for the two largest U.S. gold coins at the time, the $10 eagle and the $20 double eagle. His eponymous design for the double eagle appeared in circulation from 1907 to 1933, and it was considered chief among the most beautiful American coin designs that have ever been produced.
A slightly modified version of this classic image has proven to be the ideal choice for the American Gold Eagle. This design is used for all the different sizes of the country's gold bullion coin, which covers the range of 1 oz, 1/2 oz, 1/4 oz, and 1/10 oz sizes.
All of these bullion coins are Made In the USA, backing up their patriotic symbolism and precious metal content by supporting American jobs and national manufacturing might. The gold content in each American Gold Eagle is backed by the full faith and credit of the United States government.
Not only is the AGE the first regularly-produced gold coin by the U.S. Mint since 1933, but its famous century-old design is revered by many collectors and numismatic scholars as the most beautiful portrayal of Lady Liberty on any U.S. coin -- and perhaps any coin in the world.
The Famous Design of the American Gold Eagle
Saint-Gaudens's depiction of Liberty continues to captivate the public more than 100 years after its debut. Today, it appears on the obverse of every Gold Eagle bullion coin.
Miss Liberty is shown from a front view bearing a lit torch in her right arm, held high above her head. She grasps an olive branch in her other arm, which is stretched outward at her side.
The image captures Lady Liberty in mid-stride as she climbs to the top of a hill overlooking the U.S. Capitol, visible in the bottom-left corner. Radiant rays of light pour from over the horizon behind her and her hair is swept in the wind.
Fifty stars representing the states in the Union fill the outer rim. The inscription "LIBERTY" is placed above Miss Liberty's head. The year of issue appears near the bottom-right of the design along with the "ASG" monogram of Augustus Saint-Gaudens.
Unlike the original Saint-Gaudens double eagles, which used a lettered edge, the American Gold Eagle features a standard reeded design for the edge of the coin.
The reverse design was created in 1986 by the artist Miley Busiek. Her design emphasizes family values, a traditional American ideal, by portraying a scene of a bald eagle family.
A father eagle is shown soaring above the family nest, returning with an olive branch held in its talons. The nest itself even employs this clever symbolism, showing a portion of the dwelling created out of olive branches.
Two baby eaglets are shielded by the wings of the mother eagle in the nest. The national mottoes "E PLURIBUS UNUM" and "IN GOD WE TRUST" are inscribed to the left and right, respectively.
Other inscriptions around the outer rim include the name of the issuing nation "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" at the top rim and the coin' weight and purity specifications followed by the denomination at the bottom rim: "1 OZ. FINE GOLD~50 DOLLARS."
Buy Your 2018 1 oz American Gold Eagle (Brilliant Uncirculated) at Gainesville Coins!
Unlike the collectible proof version of the Gold Eagle, the Brilliant Uncirculated (BU) bullion coin cannot be purchased directly from the U.S. Mint. Instead, the mint sells the coins to authorized purchasers and, subsequently, authorized distributors -- both of which are comprised of reputable coin dealers, banks, brokerages, and wholesalers -- who then make the coins available to the general public.
Another consequence of this wide network of partners means that selling a Gold Eagle coin is simple and convenient.
It is also true that worldwide recognition of the AGE, and its backing by the United States, makes these coins perfect for over-the-counter sales and trades when you are overseas.
This is undeniably one of the clearest advantages to owning gold coins specifically, and gold bullion generally. It makes transporting one's money and protecting one's wealth an easier task, especially considering the potential difficulty in quickly liquidating paper assets like securities when you need funds.
The American Gold Eagle offers the same advantages for investors as its other peer gold bullion coins from around the world. It is in the same class as the Gold Britannia from the U.K., the Canadian Gold Maple Leaf, the aforementioned South African Gold Krugerrand, the Chinese Gold Panda, the Austrian Gold Philharmonic, and the variety of gold bullion coins offered by Australia's Perth Mint.
However, the Gold Eagle is consistently chosen over its competitors for its higher durability and captivating design.
Gainesville Coins proudly carries a variety of American Gold Eagles, including fractional sizes and proof coins. We offer both raw and certified (graded) examples. Over the years, the Gold Eagle series has also attracted a number of collectors into the fold.
The standard-bearer of the U.S. Mint's bullion program remains the 1 oz American Gold Eagle, the largest size offered by the mint. Its Brilliant Uncirculated (BU) finish provides additional eye appeal, as well. Purchase the 2018 1 oz American Gold Eagle (BU) for a low premium over spot! You can buy gold coins online, over the phone, or in our showroom in Lutz, Florida.