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Gold American Eagle Coins

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History of the American Gold Eagle


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 Gold 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 Coin in 1986.

The First Official Gold Bullion Coin of the U.S.

The American Gold Eagle was authorized by the Gold Bullion Coin Act of 1985. This act permitted the creation of the American Gold Eagle coin series as the first official Gold Bullion coin of the U.S. The coins are issued in four different denominations of four different weights: $50 1 oz., $25 1/2 oz., $10 1/4 oz., $5 1/10 oz. These coins are issued in a variety of finishes as well – a plain business strike for the bullion coin and Proof, Reverse Proof and Burnished finishes for collectors.

United States Gold Eagle Obverse Design

2022 American Gold Eagle BU Obverse2022 American Gold Eagle BU Obverse

The obverse of the Gold Eagle coin features Lady Liberty and has been used on the gold coins since 1986 and was inspired by Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ celebrated 1907 $20 gold piece. The year 2021 marked the 35th Anniversary Of The U.S. Mint’s American Eagle Coin and as a result updated the designs. Using the historical asset of the original bronze cast of Saint-Gaudens’ original vision, the refreshed design includes modifications to the Capitol Building, stars, torch, and sun rays.

United States Gold Eagle Reverse Design

2022 American Gold Eagle BU Reverse2022 American Gold Eagle BU Reverse

Sculptor Miley Busiek was the Designer Of The Gold Eagle Reverse Design from 1986 to 2021. This design depicted an eagle carrying an olive branch flying above a nest containing a second eagle and hatchlings. Since then, the updated reverse design shows a portrait of the American bald eagle. This design also has enhanced security features as they have been updated with a new level of counterfeit designs to include a reeded edge variation.

Are American Gold Eagles Pure Gold?


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 .9167 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.


1 oz. U.S. Gold Eagles


The 1 oz. American Gold Eagle is annually issued by the United States Mint. First introduced in 1986 alongside the American Silver Eagle, it has gone on to be one of the most popular gold coins in the world, making it one of the most widely traded and collected. Because this denomination contains 1 troy ounce of gold, it is easy for a purchaser to determine the value based on spot gold prices.  This is true even though the coins contain copper and other alloys to make them more durable.


American Eagles are actually struck from .9167 pure gold due to the inclusion of a strengthening alloy

A Variety of Finishes

The 1oz U.S. Gold Eagles are minted in a variety of versions besides the standard bullion coin, including ProofBurnished, and Reverse Proof coins. Each of these coins is widely collected in ungraded and professionally graded form, and many people seek to build full sets of these coins.


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1/2 oz. U.S. Gold Eagles


Available in both collector and bullion versions, the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) or the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) standards are the most ideal rating systems when grading a coin of this size. While the largest quantity of 1/2 oz. American Gold Eagles are bullion coins produced for those who stack the coins for their gold content, the U.S. Mint has made certain that Proof versions have been minted just for collectors.

Gold Composition of the 1/2 oz. Gold Eagle

This 1/2 oz. American Gold Eagle is composed of .9167 fine gold, with a balance of copper. This coin has a gram weight of 16.97, and is struck to a diameter of 27 mm. The added copper strengthens the coins. The Gold Bullion Coin Act of 1985 declared that the gold used when producing this coin must be mined in the United States, making this a thoroughly American coin.

1/2 oz. American Gold Eagle Finishes

The $25 1/2 oz. American Gold Eagle was originally only issued as a bullion coin, but in 1987 - its second year of production - a proof version was struck for collectors. In 2006, a new version of this coin was created for collectors, using a new burnished finish. While the largest quantity of 1/2 oz. American Gold Eagles are produced for those who stack the coins for their gold content, the U.S. Mint has made certain that versions have been minted just for collectors.


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1/4 oz. U.S. Gold Eagles


The face value of the ¼ Ounce Gold Eagle Proof Coin Is $10, but like all of its Gold Eagle proof counterparts, the U.S. Gold Eagle coins were not minted for general circulation so each quarter-ounce Gold Eagle coin’s value is tied to the gold content and not necessarily the face value. Because of this, the price will fluctuate with market forces based on the current spot price of gold. 


At a typically much lower price point than the one ounce and half ounce Gold Eagle coins, the Quarter-Ounce American Gold Eagle Coin allows for more people to enjoy the widely popular American Eagle design. These iconic American gold coins are graded, certified and available in proof and mint grade conditions from NGC and PCGS. The iconic American coins have a variety of special holders, and each quarter-ounce American Gold Eagle coin can be purchased individually or in quantity with ¼ oz gold eagle coin rolls.


With a diameter of only 22 mm and a thickness of 1.83 mm, it is amazing how detailed the design appears on the 1/4 oz. U.S. Gold Eagle. Per the Gold Bullion Coin Act of 1985, this American Gold Eagles can only be struck out of gold that was mined inside of the U.S. This gold was refined to purity and mixed with copper to create an alloy of .9167 gold and a balance of copper. The resulting weight of this 1/4 Troy oz. gold coin is 8.48 grams.


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1/10 oz. U.S. Gold Eagles


The 1/10 oz. Gold Eagle has a diameter of 16.5 mm and a thickness of 1.19 mm, and while you might expect fine details and lack of blemishes to be an issue with a coin this small, $5 1/10 oz. Gold American Eagles graded by the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) or the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) make perfect grading conditions quite frequently.

1/10 oz. American Gold Eagle Finishes

This coin was only issued with a business strike in 1986 & 1987, but in 1988 for the first time a version of the 1/10 oz. $5 American Gold Eagle was struck using a collector’s mirrored Proof finish. This stunning new coin was an instant hit among collectors, and sets were soon accumulated. Then in 2006, this coin was released with a special burnished finish. Despite the excellent appearance of the coins with this finish, the U.S. Mint stopped issuing $5 1/10 oz. burnished Gold Eagles in 2008 and have not struck any since. The U.S. Mint has continued issuing 1 ounce burnished coins most years. 


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Face Value vs. Worth


It really comes down to not judging a book by its cover. The face value of a coin is the literal value that is printed, stamped, or written on the coin whereas the worth may differ depending on a variety of different factors, such as:


  • Melt value (the base worth of the metal contained in the coin)
  • Historic value
  • Aesthetic features
  • Mint year
  • Grade or condition of the coin
  • Mintage limit 


NGC and PCGS Certified American Gold Eagles


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), can be great additions to any collection.

Proof vs. Mint State

Mint State (MS) coins are struck at the same format as circulation issues, and Proof (PR) is a designation for coins that are struck from a specially prepared coin die in a format for collectors and usually have sharper details. PCGS specifically recognizes Proofs as those struck in 1817 and later.

Mint State or Proof 70 (MS/PR70)

A coin that falls within this standard is virtually perfect, free of visual marks, and with no post-production imperfections at 5x magnification that impact the eye appeal of the coin.

Mint State or Proof 69 (MS/PR69)

A coin with minuscule imperfections that are only visible upon close inspection and are nearly imperceptible, but because of them, cannot be given a perfect MS/PR 70 score.


Availability of American Gold Eagles


With the exception of collector Proof versions and a few special editions, bullion American Gold Eagles are not available directly from the U.S. Mint. The bullion coins are instead sold through a series of authorized distributors who then sell them to the public through their own dealer networks.