The American Silver Eagle is the proverbial ‘gold standard' in silver bullion. They were the original modern bullion coins struck with U.S government backing for weight and purity. Three and a half decades after the series began, they continue to be a favorite among collectors, especially those who prefer coins that are highly recognizable and trusted around the world.
The series successfully brings together America’s numismatic past and present, with the former represented by Adolph Weinman's obverse design and the latter with a design by numismatic icon John Mercanti. American Silver Eagles, or “ASEs,” as they are frequently called,” continue to be the world’s most popular bullion coin year in, year out. In fact, they serve as the building blocks of countless collections throughout the world.
In 1985, President Ronald Reagan signed the Gold Bullion Coin Act of 1985 into law. The legislation authorized the production and issue of American Gold and Silver Eagles. The coins were first issued in 1986, with just under 5.4 million bullion Silver Eagles struck. Since those relatively humble beginnings, the series has become one of the world’s favorite bullion coin, both because of its stunning designs and its backing by the U.S government for weight and purity.
On the tenth anniversary of the series, mintage dropped to just over 3.6 million, but 1996 was the only year in which production was under 4 million pieces. In more recent years, sales have been much stronger, with the series peaking in 2015 at a round 47 million pieces. While mintages have since dropped to less than half of that all time high, the series continues to run and appears unlikely to have any serious competition for the top spot among silver bullion coins.
The designs of the Silver Eagle Series have remained constant since the first issue. The obverse features the Walking Liberty design of Adolph Weinman, which featured on the half dollar from 1916-1947. Draped in the American flag and wearing a Phrygian cap on her head, Liberty strides confidently toward the left side of the coin. She carries laurel and oak branches, which represent civilian and military honors, in her left hand. Her right hand she extends in front of her above the rising sun, as if presenting the new day to the holder. “LIBERTY” spreads throughout much of the rim, while the national motto, “IN GOD WE TRUST,” is included on the right. The date, “2020,” is at the bottom.
John Mercanti designed the reverse, basing it on the Great Seal of the United States. An eagle holds arrows and an olive branch in its talons while guarding a union shield. The arrows remind all that America will defend her values, while the olive branch indicates a preference for peace. In the bird’s beak is a ribbon with the inscription “IN GOD WE TRUST,” and thirteen stars above its head represent the original states. Rim inscriptions read, “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,” “1 OZ. FINE SILVER,” and “ONE DOLLAR.”
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