The 1 oz. Silver Eagle coin is undoubtedly the most popular silver coin ever struck by the US Mint. It was introduced in 1986 and has seen a massive increase in demand and popularity since it was first struck. This issue is a legal tender One U.S. Silver Dollar—the direct descendant of the Morgan Dollar and the remarkable Peace Dollar. It is stuck in the standard Bullion finish and in collectible Numismatic Uncirculated and Proof finishes.
The obverse of the coin borrows artist Adolph Weinman’s Walking Liberty design taken from the circulating U.S. half dollar from 1917-1947. Liberty is shown walking over rocky terrain. Her form is backlit by the rising sun. She is draped in the Stars and Stripes as she carries with her symbols of Freedom and Prosperity in the form of Oak and Laurel branches. She is depicted wearing her freedom cap with her arm outstretched.
The reverse of the coin gives us a bold and original design from the 12th Chief Engraver of the U.S. Mint, Mr. John Mercanti. The central image of the design is a Heraldic Bald Eagle. He is shown with his wings spread. In his talons he carried arrows and an olive branch. His beak holds bunting that reads “E Pluribus Unum.” Overhead is an inverted triangle featuring thirteen stars which represent the colonies from which the United States sprang. It is here that the "S" mint mark appears.
The fabled San Francisco Mint is a U.S. branch mint established in 1854 as a response to the California Gold Rush. It was cheaper and less risky to transport gold a short distance to San Francisco for striking into coinage than it was to transport it to other US Mint facilities like Philadelphia, Carson City or New Orleans. By 1874 a larger facility was necessary and the famous “Granite Lady” was built. This facility was adequate until 1937 when the current mint facility was established. Between the years 1962 and 1988, there was no San Francisco Mint, the facility was officially designated as an assay office.
Historically, branch mints would strike coinage for regional distribution and they would strike additional coinage in the event that the Philadelphia branch was unable to supply the nation’s coinage needs. Collectors over the years have been keenly aware of lower mintage issues from various branch mints and some of these mints have acquired a certain mystique about them, like the Carson City Mint or the San Francisco Mint. Occasionally, a mint facility becomes inextricably linked with a certain series. The Carson city Mint is famous for it’s lovely, tough to find Morgan Silver Dollars. Similarly, the San Francisco Mint is forever connected to the iconic James B, Longacre designed $20 “Double Eagle” and other 19th century U.S. circulating gold coins.
In modern times the San Francisco Mint has struck some of the most popular and sought-after Proof Silver Eagles in the series. These coins are often tough to find, included in obscure sets and tend to be among the most highly prized Silver Eagles in the series.
To place this release into context collectors need to realize that “S” mint marked proof Silver Eagles are not struck every year. The first Silver Eagle Proofs, from 1986 until 1992 were produced at the city by the bay, bearing the iconic “S” mint mark.
2012 saw a 2-coin Proof Set celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the San Francisco branch mint. It contained a standard proof finish and reverse proof with highly mirrored devices.
2017 saw two San Francisco Proof Silver Eagles struck, the spectacular two-minute-sellout-at-the-mint Congratulations Set specimen and the Limited Edition Silver Proof Set specimen.
2018 saw a stand alone San Francisco mint marked Silver Eagle Proof issued to an enthusiastic public.
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