The American Gold Eagle series was introduced in 1986. It was a latecomer to the world of private gold ownership, as it debuted after other modern series like the South African Gold Krugerrand, the Canadian Gold Maple, and the Mexican Gold Libertad. At the time, this was the only modern gold bullion coin series to be guaranteed by the United States government for both purity and gold weight.
The design features the familiar Augustus Saint-Gaudens $20 “Double Eagle” obverse depicting a full-length Liberty holding the Torch of Enlightenment overhead. The reverse features an original-to-the-series “Family of Eagles” design by artist Miley (Busiek) Tucker-Frost. This design is due to be replaced at some point in 2021 with a new reverse. This change marks a clear boundary between what might be called the “first type” of American Gold Eagle and the forthcoming “second type.”
The series remains popular with collectors either because of, or despite, rising gold prices.
The first year of issue typically holds a special place in the hearts and collections of students of the series. High-quality examples are plentiful and eagerly snapped up by series aficionados and type collectors.
1991 issues feature comparatively lower mintages across the board, however the ½ oz. issue holds the low mintage record for the bullion series to date.
One of the curious entries into the series is this pair of coins. The coins were struck as bullion issues but unlike their bullion counterparts, they feature the iconic West Point Mint “W” mintmark. They also feature an unusual finish. As the name suggests, the dies used to strike these coins were proof dies and did not receive the final polish in their specialized preparation.
While it is sometimes thought that 6,000 of these issues were struck, that figure is an estimate based on the assumption that only one die bearing the “W” mint mark was used to strike each denomination. The coins are popular with small denomination collectors, error collectors and students of the series.
There were two collars with different reeding used to strike the $5 American Gold Eagle in 2014 and 2015. The so-called “Narrow Reeds” variety has much finer reeding than that of the slightly coarser standard reeding. The 2014 seems to be the less common issue and often commands hefty premiums.
Proof American Gold Eagles are the original “Numismatic Version” of the series. These coins feature the highest quality finish. Proof coinage all over the world is regarded as the pinnacle of the coin collecting hobby. Coins featuring this finish have been used as diplomatic gifts, museum showpieces, and the cornerstone of many private collections.
While Proof American Eagles often have low mintages, the lowest mintages over time has been continually changing over the years due to a recent trend of decreasing sales, its hard to pin down major key dates. According to Coin Week, in the past particular issues, were temporarily worth more than others when they reigned as the lowest mintage coins.
The United States Mint is releasing the first-ever American Gold Eagle to feature a privy mark in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Allied Victory that ended World War II. Called the V75-privy mark, this mark is shaped like the Rainbow Pool at the World War II memorial in Washington D.C. This exciting issue has a mintage limit of 1,945 coins which would make it, by far, the lowest mintage in the entire American Gold Eagle series to date!
The Burnished Gold Eagle is a very interesting sub-set of the series. The Burnished American Gold Eagle is the second "Numismatic Version" of the coin to be introduced. The coins are created using dies and planchets prepared using a metal-polishing-metal technique that results in the unique, uniform frosty appearance. Burnished entries were first struck in 2006 in the 1/10, ¼, ½ and 1-ounce sizes. Due to decreased demand related to the country's financial turmoil in 2008, the Burnished entries in the series went "on hiatus" for 2009 and 2010. When the Burnished coins resumed production in 2011, only the 1 oz. size remained.
Overall, the Burnished Gold Eagle mintages generally tend to be lower than their proof and bullion cousins. The highest mintage entries for Burnished Gold Eagles are the 2006 1 oz, the 2006 1/10 oz, and the 2007 1/10 oz. An exciting and achievable type set would be a fractional set of Burnished Gold Eagle coins. In general, most mintages are under 15,000.
Of the decalred mintages, the Burnished 2008 ¼ oz. Gold Eagle stands out as one of the the lowest mintage entries in the series at 8,883 for a fractional coin. Its low mintage status could possible change over the years, but how likely that is remains unclear since the Mint has not released fractional Burnished American Gold Eagle coins since 2008.
Ever since the American Gold Eagle debuted in 1986, the reverse has featured what is commonly referred to as the “Family of Eagles” design that was created by sculptor Miley Busiek. With the series transitioning to a new reverse designs in 2021, the last year of issues that will carry the original reverse design will most likely be of interest to collectors. First and last years of issues are often thought to be significant numismatic events.
Information as to when the new design will debut on the individual releases is still forthcoming. For example, bullion American Gold Eagles will bear both the original and new reverse design in 2021 as the Mint is not transitioning the designs until mid-2021.
Announced in 2019, the United States Mint is updated the reverse design that has appeared on the American Gold Eagle series since its debut in 1986. At some point in 2021, the series will transition from Busiek’s original design to a new design created by Jennie Norris, a participant in the Mint’s Artistic Infusion Program (AIP). The new reverse showcases a side-profile of an Eagle’s head that includes an incredible amount of details. For more information about the new design, how the design was chosen, and when it will start appearing on coins, read this Info-Vault article.
To learn more about the historical mintages of the American Gold Eagle series check out our coin mintage charts section of the site!