Prior to 1933, gold coins were a part of everyday life in the United States. Although the $10 Eagle Gold coins and $20 Double Eagle Gold coins were rarely seen, the $2.50 and $5 Eagles were common coins that circulated widely. This all changed in 1933 when newly elected President Franklin Roosevelt issued an executive order directing all Americans to turn their gold coins into the government in exchange for paper money. In essence, and by the stroke of a pen, it became illegal for United States Citizens to own gold currency.
By the mid 1960's, interest in owning gold had grown due to the increase in the price of the metal. In response, South Africa issued the world's first gold bullion coin in 1967. The Gold Krugerrand was unique, as it contained 1 Oz. of gold and had a face value equal to the daily gold price. The Canadian Gold Maple Leaf and the China Gold Panda appeared several years later. By the mid 1980's, it had become obvious that Americans wanted their own gold coins again, and Congress and President Reagan obliged by authorizing the striking of the American Gold Eagle in 1986.
The American Gold Eagle Coins are made in four denominations that contain 1 Oz., 1/2 Oz., 1/4 Oz., and 1/10 Oz. of pure gold, respectively. The coins are struck in .9167 pure gold, with a face value reminiscent of Classic U.S. Gold Coins. The $5 coin weighs 3.93 grams, the $10 weighs 8.483 grams, the $25 weighs 16.966 grams and the $50 weighs a hefty 33.931 grams.
When the American Gold Eagle Program started in 1986, no one anticipated that stackers would take a keen interest in obtaining the coins by date, mintmark, finish, and quality. Gold Eagles in near-perfect Mint State and Proof 69 and perfect 70 condition, as graded by Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) or Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS), are highly coveted.
With the exception of a few special editions, American Gold Eagles are not available directly from the U.S. Mint. The coins are instead sold though a series of authorized distributors who then sell them to the public through their own dealer networks. As American Gold Eagles must be struck from newly mined U.S. gold, this caveat can lead to scarcity at times of high demand, just when buyers want them the most. Many stackers buy up American Gold Eagles on a regular basis while they're available, in order to avoid disappointment in times of shortage.