American Silver Eagles

The American Silver Eagle does not come in just one form. Here is what you need to know if you plan to invest.

In 1986, the U.S. Defense National Stockpile had a huge surplus of silver and the government wanted to get rid of the national deficit. So the American Eagle Silver coins were born as a way to help reduce the national deficit. They were immediately popular and are still minted today.

These coins are one ounce of silver and have a face value of one dollar. It is important to know the differences between various types of American Silver Eagle coins to make better investment and collecting choices.

There are three main types of American Eagle Silver coins: bullion, burnished and proof.

Bullion Eagles

Bullion American Eagle coins are the most affordable of the three types of coins. They are primarily sold to those looking to invest in silver. They are not sold directly to consumers by the U.S. Mint and they do not have a mintmark.

These coins were minted in San Francisco from 1986 to 1998 and from 2011 to 2013. From 1999 to 2000 they were minted in Philadelphia, and from 2001 to 2010 they were minted in West Point.

When buying bullion coins, check the grading to see where they were minted. If it has an “S” on the grading, it was minted in San Francisco even though it does not have a mintmark on the coin itself.

Burnished Eagles

Burnished coins are the rarest type of Silver Eagle coins. First released by the U.S. Mint in 2006 in honor of the mint’s 20th anniversary, burnished American Eagles were highly sought after by investors and collectors from the beginning. Only a limited number of uncirculated burnished Silver Eagles are released by the mint annually, making them unusually rare and difficult to acquire.

Silver Eagles with a burnished finished appear less shiny and matte when compared to bullion Eagles, and some numismatists believe burnishing helps make the design more durable and long-lasting. The unique burnished finish is achieved by polishing the blank rounds before they are struck.

All burnished American Eagle coins carry the “W” mintmark indicative of the West Point Mint in New York where a limited number of these rare coins are struck each year.

Proof Eagles

Proof coins are the most valuable of the three coins. Like the uncirculated coins, proof Eagles are also made for collectors. They are made through a very special minting process with very high-quality dyes. Unlike the uncirculated coins, the background on proofs have a mirror-like shine because they are struck multiple times in production with the Eagle press to bring out all the details.

Each proof goes through inspection for impurities before being placed in a protective plastic casing, a satin lined flip case, and is given a certificate of authenticity. There is a lot of human labor that goes into making proof coins which is partly why they are so much more valuable than uncirculated coins.

Proofs are often valued at roughly double the price of uncirculated coins. This is because collectors want the rarest of the three types as well as the most beautiful version of the proofs they can get their hands on. Compared to uncirculated Eagle coins, proofs are incredibly rare. In 2011, 41 million Silver Eagles were made in total and only 450,000 of them were proofs (1%).

Which Silver Eagle Should You Buy?

No matter which of the three types of coin it is, be sure to get your Silver Eagle coins graded to ensure authenticity as well as the exact condition of the coin. Many collectors only buy graded coins because they can rely on the grading to tell them what condition the coin is in. Collectors can also get coins graded to know what the value of their American Silver Eagle coin is.

If you would like to make a proof, uncirculated or bullion American Silver Eagle your next investment or collector’s piece, consider Provident Metals. For starters, browse our selection or check out our Buying Guide to learn more.