On July 6, 2017 the U.S. Mint will mark the 20th anniversary of the introduction of American Platinum Eagle bullion and proof coin series. This release debuted the first-ever legal tender U.S. coin made of platinum and the highest denomination coin ever struck by the establishment at a $100 face value.
To mark this historic moment, the 2017 annual issue of the American Platinum Eagle Proof series will feature the original design that appeared on the reverse of the 1997 platinum proof and bullion coins. While this design has always appeared on the bullion Platinum Eagles, this will be only the second time it has been struck with proof finish. With a mintage limit of 10,000 and a household order limit of only 1, this will be a true collector’s item from modern U.S. numismatics.
This design, which appears on the coin’s reverse, is called “Soaring Eagle Above America.” As the name suggests, the design is a simple but elegant representation of an American Eagle flying away from the sun and above the U.S. It was designed and engraved by Thomas D. Rogers, who was serving in 1997 on the engraving staff of the Philadelphia Mint.
Rogers served in this capacity from October 1991 until January 2001, after which he resumed his prior work as a freelance medallic designer and sculptor. He does all of his design and plaster work by hand using the casting process. He has received commissions from many private Mints to design various coins and medals.
The obverse, like all other American Platinum Eagles struck, will feature the design “Liberty Looking to the Future,” by John Mercanti, who served as U.S. Mint sculptor-engraver when this series was launched. The design is a close-up view of the face of the State of Liberty in New York harbor, the quintessential symbol of America and its commitment to freedom. Mercanti also engraved this design.
The obverse also includes inscriptions for “LIBERTY,” “2017,” “IN GOD WE TRUST” and “E PLURIBUS UNUM.” The reverse side with the soaring eagle design includes inscriptions for “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,” “$100,” and “.9999 PLATINUM 1 OZ.”
In the late 1980s, several world Mints, including those in Canada, China and the Perth Mint in Australia, began offering their own platinum bullion coins. The American Platinum Eagle program was created through a collaborative effort since 1995 as a direct response to these existing bullion coins. The U.S. Platinum coins were meant to prevent this segment of the market from continuing to be dominated by foreign supply.
The effort involved U.S. Mint Director, Philip Diehl, American Numismatic Association President, David Ganz, and Platinum Guild International Executive Director, Jacques Luben. Over a two-year period, these men worked with members of the U.S. Congress, Rep. Michael Castle (R-Delaware) in particular, to lay the foundation for the series. Castle’s discussions with collectors and representatives of the bullion industry convinced him that the U.S. needed its own platinum coin and also that it needed fractional versions for those who could not afford a 1-oz. piece.
The program was at last authorized with a 1996 law (Public Law 104-208), which gave the Treasury Secretary great latitude in how these coins are produced. The proof version of the American Platinum Eagle was issued in June 1997, and the bullion version came out in September of that year.
In the years since, all bullion coins have retained this same design and were issued through 2008 in four sizes (10th oz., ¼ oz. ½ oz. and 1 oz.) and then only in the 1 oz. format since 2014.
The proof versions, which similarly were struck in the same four sizes until 2008, and then only in the 1 oz. size since 2014, has always featured a different design on the reverse of each annual issue. These designs are thought of in groups and based on various themes such as Vistas for Liberty, Foundations for Democracy, Preamble to the Constitution and Portraits of Liberty. In 2018 a new platinum proof series will be launched that will feature coins on The Preamble to the Declaration of Independence.
Platinum Eagles are popular with stackers since they are the only official platinum bullion coin from the U.S. Their weight and purity are backed by the U.S. government, allowing anyone to trust the weight and purity offered on each issue. Collectors, on the other hand, are always searching for Proof Platinum Eagles. The mirrored platinum coins are highly sought after by collectors, and the changing reverse designs appeal to collectors because of their Liberty themes and outstanding art work.
Since the bullion series was resumed in 2014, sales by the Mint of these coins have been brisk with each issue selling out of its entire run. There was a shortage of platinum planchets during some of this period, especially in 2015, which required the Mint to limit the number of platinum coins produced.
The previous two proof coins in this series were issued in 2015 and 2016 and formed a two-year series called Torches of Liberty (honoring the core values of liberty and freedom). Both sold out almost instantly at the Mint on the same day they were launched! In addition to their low mintages, the 2015 and 2016 proof issues, like other coins in this series, sport neoclassical designs that resonated strongly with collectors who love the classic Liberty coins of the past.
The 2016 issue had the same 10,000-mintage (actual sales were 9,151) as the forthcoming 2017 issue, which is twice the number of coins as the 2015 issue (sales of 3,881), but those coins still sold out in less than an hour.
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||Louis is an award-winning numismatic journalist and writer specializing on modern coins. He has been writing a weekly column for CoinWeek since May 2011 called “The Coin Analyst,” which focuses primarily on modern U.S. and world coins and developments at major world mints. In August 2015 he received the Numismatic Literary Guild’s award for Best Website Column for “The Coin Analyst.” He is also a contributor to several magazines, including Coin World, where he writes a bimonthly feature;The Numismatist, the American Numismatic Association’s monthly publication, where he writes a monthly column on modern world coins; and American Hard Assets. He began writing about coins in 2009. He is a founding member of the Modern Coin Forum hosted by ModernCoinMart and has written articles for MCM since 2014. He has collected classic and modern U.S. and world coins since he was about 10 and first joined the ANA in the 1970’s. He was previously a congressional relations specialist and policy analyst at the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress and a syndicated columnist and news analyst on international politics and national security for a wide variety of publications. He has been writing professionally since the early 1980s.|