The Burnished American Silver Eagle is set apart from the popular Proof and Mint State American Silver Eagles in a couple of aspects. Not only is the appearance of these coins unique, but their minting process differs as well. The silver planchets used to strike each Burnished American Silver Eagle are polished inside a vat of tiny steel beads before use. This creates a matte surface on the planchets before any finish has been applied. These blanks are specially handled and loaded into the minting presses one at a time by workers wearing soft gloves.
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When the coins are struck, a soft, matte finish that is unique to burnished coins is applied. Combined with the burnishing effect already achieved in the polishing vat, the entire surface of the coin has a soft, satin appearance. The strike is stronger than that of a Mint State Silver Eagle, and details are a slightly sharper. In addition to this fine craftsmanship, the most obvious detail that distinguishes any Burnished American Silver Eagle from a Mint State American Silver Eagle is the Mint mark that appears on the reverse.
The obverse of the 2016 American Silver Eagle carries the same design as the classic American coin, the Walking Liberty Half-Dollar. Introduced in 1916, this stunning design celebrates its centennial anniversary in 2016 and is being honored with a Walking Liberty 2016 Centennial Gold coin. It shows an image of Lady Liberty walking in a flowing robe, with the shining sun just peaking over the horizon in the background.
The reverse of the 2016 American Silver Eagle is unique to the series, and was designed by John Mercanti back in 1986. It shows a heraldic eagle that Mercanti based off of the Official Seal of the U.S. This design has grown very popular over the course of the series, and while it may not have as much heritage as the Walking Liberty design, it is famous in its own right.
To commemorate the 30th anniversary of this popular American coin series, the U.S. Mint announced that both the Proof American Silver Eagles and Burnished American Silver Eagles issued in 2016 have distinctive edge lettering. This edge lettering is applied similarly to the incuse text found on the America the Beautiful 5 oz. Silver Quarters.
This incuse edge lettering has been added to the coin using a unique press. A three-piece collar struck the coin at the exact same time that the anvil and hammer dies strike the burnished planchet. These pieces then connect, precisely encircling the coin, and add the incuse edge lettering “30th ANNIVERSARY.” The Mint uses special technology that ensures the lettering is always be struck in the same place – the 6 o'clock position.