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Why the American Silver Eagle Coin Should Be in Your Collection

Why the American Silver Eagle Coin Should Be in Your Collection

Posted by Bullion Shark on Sep 13th 2021

Among numismatists, the American Silver Eagle is certainly popular. In November 2019, the U.S. Mint released a limited edition San Francisco mint mark Reverse Proof. Collectors were so enamored, the entire 30,000 minting sold out in twenty minutes!

The Mint tried to prevent hoarding by limiting sales to one per customer. Yet, despite this limitation, the sale of the 2019 American Silver Eagle crashed the Mint's website.

This coin's popularity is undeniable. But, is it really worth the hype?

Some numismatists compare buying it to investing in the Morgan Dollar.

In November 2020, a rare Morgan dollar variant sold for $750,000 at auction. Even typical Morgan dollars are reliably valuable.

And, there are so many variants, Morgan dollar collecting has become its own numismatic specialty. Similarly, there are multiple limited-edition American Silver Eagle varieties.

Beyond this, both coins contain at least one troy ounce of silver. Because of this, the American Silver Eagle is a great bullion coin if you want to hedge against inflation. And, it might be the next Morgan dollar in terms of value.

American Silver Eagle: Ideal Bullion Coin

Bullion coins aren't used for commerce. Instead, countries mint bullion coins as investment assets. Mints print bullion coins in precious metals and weigh them in troy ounces.

In the United States, the Treasury Department might grant the coin a face value. But, in most cases, the appraised value is higher.

Congress declared the face value of the American Silver Eagle to be one dollar. The coin contains at least one troy ounce of 99.9% pure silver.

The U.S. Treasury intends American Silver Eagle coins as investment pieces and collector's items. The IRS allows investors to contribute these bullion coins to their Individual Retirement Account (IRA) funds.

The American Silver Eagle's composition and utility as an IRA contribution make it a good bullion coin on its own. But its unique history makes it an even better investment than most.

History of the American Silver Eagle Coin

Congress asked the U.S. Mint to create the American Silver Eagle to solve an economic problem. Yet, while they minted the coin out of necessity, it became a noteworthy work of art.

This coin's history began in 1985. It's still unfolding today.


U.S. Mint Director Donna Pope chose the "Walking Liberty" design for the face of the coin. The sculptor Adolph Weinman originally created the design for the Walking Liberty Half Dollar in 1916.

The design was iconic, yet no one had minted the silver fifty-cent piece since 1947. So, Pope revived it for the American Silver Eagle.

The Director appointed John Mercanti to design the Eagle itself. Mercanti is an American sculptor. He served as the twelfth Chief Engraver of the United States Mint from 1974 to 2010.

Mercanti's eagle design encompasses a shield, banner, and thirteen stars.

Liberty Coin Act (1985)

The U.S. Mint created the American Silver Eagle in response to the Liberty Coin Act. Congress passed the Liberty Coin Act in 1985.

Before this act, different members of Congress proposed different strategies to sell off government-owned silver. They hoped to decrease the budget deficit.

The National Defense Stockpile housed most of the silver. The Defense Logistics Agency is a subsidiary of the Department of Defense.

It secures and stores raw materials for future use in combat. It maintains these materials in the stockpile. By 1976, the DLA had secured more silver than necessary, which affected the economy.

Previous Acts Defeated

Previous proposals to sell off the extra silver were defeated in Congress. In 1981, the House Armed Services Committee tried to move forward with the sale.

But, the price of silver dropped 11% when they announced the sale. The plan was opposed by silver miners and some military leaders. The plan was shelved.

Viable Compromise

Finally, in 1985, Congress came to a workable compromise: The Liberty Coin Act. This act enabled the Department of Defense to sell off extra silver without depressing the price of silver. To do this, sold the silver in the form of coins.

The Treasury purchased the silver directly from the DLA. Then, it used the raw material to mine American Silver Eagle bullion coins. Sales of these coins buoyed the federal budget.

American Silver Eagle Bullion Program Extended (2002)

The Treasury successfully depleted the National Defense Stockpile's silver reserves by 2002. Per the original Liberty Coin Act, the Mint would stop producing the coin. The coin had served its purpose.

But, the American Silver Eagle was so popular, members of Congress pushed to continue production. In 2002, Senator Harry Reid created the Support of American Eagle Silver Bullion Program Act.

This act empowered the Treasury to purchase more silver on the open market. The bill specified the Treasury was to use this new silver to mint more Silver Eagle Bullions. Congress passed the act that year.

Recession Impacts Coin Value (2008-2010)

Demand for the American Silver Eagle coin skyrocketed in 2008. The United States' economy began to slide into a recession. To keep their portfolios from failing, investors turned to bullion coins.

Between February and March 2008, American Silver Eagle coin sales increased by 900%. In April, the Mint began rationing sales of the coin. By June, the Mint was able to increase production to keep up with demand.

The Mint stopped printing uncirculated proof editions of the coin in 2009 and 2010. In December 2010, the Coin Modernization, Oversight, and Continuity Act empowered the Treasury to mint enough American Eagle coins to meet demand.

The act granted the Treasury the ability to mint American Eagle bullion coins in gold as well as silver. It also enabled the Treasury to mint more proof and uncirculated versions of the coin.

American Silver Eagle Popularity (2013-2015)

Despite the 2010 act, demand for the American Eagle bullions surpassed supply in 2013. Once again, the Mint rationed the coins.

In July 2015, the Mint produced a new swath of American Silver Eagle coins. These sold out in one week.

Demand for American Silver Eagles is still high. New buyers in Hong Kong, Singapore, and China have only pushed demand upward.

Covid-19 Halts Production (2020)

Covid-19 interrupted American Silver Eagle coin production in 2020. At the time, only the West Point Mint printed American Silver Eagle bullions.

Federal regulators shut down the West Point Mint when an employee contracted the Covid-19 virus. They reopened the mint on April 1st.

Unfortunately, on April 15th, the U.S. Treasury closed the West Point Mint indefinitely, over safety concerns.

The Philadelphia Mint attempted to recoup the loss. It produced 240,000 American Silver Eagle coins in April 2020. Evaluators label these coins "Emergency Mints."

The Philadelphia Mint editions generated controversy. Collectors bought them at four times the price of West Point Mint coins.

Some numismatists argue these coins were over-valued. The CDC cleared the West Point Mint to resume production at the end of April 2020.

Reverse Side Re-Design (2021)

In 2021, the U.S. Mint retired John Mercanti's Eagle design. The new American Silver Eagle coins feature an eagle landing on a branch on the reverse side.

U.S. Mint Director David J Ryder chose Emily Damstra to create the design. Damstra's work is the first scientific illustration on American coinage. The new eagle engraving is biologically accurate rather than symbolic.

Morgan Dollar: Predecessor to American Silver Eagle

The Morgan dollar is a sought-after coin for collectors and investors. Its lineage bears some similarities to the American Silver Eagle. The history of the Morgan silver dollar may shed some light on the American Eagle's popularity.


The Mint initially produced the Morgan dollar from 1878 to 1904. In 1921, it minted the Morgan dollar again, but only for one year.

Then, in 2006, the Mint resurrected the Morgan dollar. It produced 500,000 of the coins to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the San-Francisco Mint.

Bland-Allison Act

Much like the American Silver Eagle, the Morgan dollar began as a solution to disputes over silver. Advocates of bimetallism wanted cheap, usable coins in circulation.

In 1873, a panic over currency values led to an economic depression. To reverse course, Congress passed the Bland-Allison Act in 1878.

This act required the Treasury to purchase $2 million to $4 million worth of silver every month at market rates. Then, it had to use the silver to produce legal tender.

This led the U.S. Mint to create the Morgan dollar. The Morgan dollar is 90% silver and 10% copper. It was legal tender with a face value of $1.


Henry Linderman was the director of the U.S. Mint in 1878. At the same time, William Barber was the Mint's Chief Engraver.

Linderman decided to hire an assistant engraver. He chose George Morgan.

Morgan wanted to depict Liberty as an American woman. Previous engravings referenced Greek imagery. Morgan asked Anna Wiles Williams to pose for him in five sittings.

Morgan used William's profile in his final "Liberty" design. This became the obverse side of the Morgan dollar.

Both Morgan and William Barber submitted eagle designs for the reverse side of the coin. Linderman preferred Morgan's imagery. So, George Morgan officially designed both sides of the Morgan dollar.

Panic of 1893

Congress passed the Sherman Silver Purchase Act in 1890. This act forced the Treasury to purchase an even greater amount of silver every month. It also compelled the Mint to produce 2 million Morgan dollars every month.

But, this second provision only held until 1891. After that, the Mint cut the number of Morgan dollars it minted significantly. Instead, it used the surplus silver to produce more quarters, dimes, and 50-cent coins.

This created ripple effects through the economy. Then, in 1893, two major industrial companies went bankrupt.

This triggered a run on the banks. Many banks subsequently bankrupted too.

Congress met and repealed the Sherman Silver Purchase Act. It then ordered the Mint to use all the remaining silver surplus to mint Morgan dollars. It produced dollar coins with the silver until 1904.

Pittman Act (1918)

In 1918, Congress passed the Pittman Act to aid the United Kingdom. The United States and the United Kingdom were allies in the first World War.

Germany used propaganda to orchestrate a run on Britain's silver. This depleted the kingdom's reserves and threatened to destabilize their economy.

The Pittman Act enabled the United States to provide raw silver to its ally. To do this, the bill authorized melting silver dollars.

The United States' Treasury melted over 270 million silver dollars. Some were Peace dollars.

But most of these were Morgan dollars. Fewer than 10% of most Morgan dollar mintages survived this transition.

1962 Treasury Discovery

The Mint had stopped producing Morgan dollars in 1904. It produced one more mintage in 1921, before ceasing production indefinitely. Post-Pittman Act, Morgan dollars seemed fairly rare.

Then, in 1962, Treasury staff discovered a previously forgotten stash of silver Morgan dollars. This intrigued the public. Demand for silver Morgan dollars surged.

The recently-rediscovered mint bags stored 2.8 million silver dollars. The Treasury decided to sell the coins via mail bid. The sale brought in $107 million.

San Francisco Commemorative Silver Dollar (2006)

In 2006, the U.S. Mint released a commemorative version of the Morgan dollar. The obverse side still displayed Morgan's liberty portrait.

But, the new version retired Morgan's eagle. Instead, Joseph Menna updated the eagle design on the reverse side.

100-Year Anniversary Morgan Dollar (2021)

2021 marked the 100th anniversary of the transition from the Morgan dollar to the Peace dollar. The Peace dollar marked the end of the first World War.

To celebrate the anniversary, the U.S. Mint produced a new Morgan dollar edition. The Mint did not intend the coin for circulation.

Instead, it priced the anniversary edition coin at $85. The first mintage sold out in forty-five minutes.

Morgan Dollar Value

Morgan dollars are 90% silver and 10% copper. The coin's melt value is roughly $18.

But, you can definitely get more than melt value for a Morgan dollar at auction. Today, collectors might sell a typical Morgan dollar for $50 to $300.

However, there are many variants and rarities with greater numismatic value. These are the dollars truly worth tracking down.

Morgan Dollar Variants and Rarities

Some collectors love hunting for variants and rarities. Those numismatists could build a whole collection from Morgan Dollars alone.

Avid collectors of Morgan dollars and Peace dollars created VAM world. This wiki-style site ranks rare variants of these silver coins.

There are hundreds of rare and unusual versions of the Morgan dollar. There are truly too many to list. So, here, we've only highlighted a few significant variants.

1878-P (8TF [Eight Tail Feathers])

1878 was the Morgan dollar's first mintage. The Bland-Allison Act mandated millions of Morgan dollars minted every month.

Yet, early in production, Director Hendry Linderman ordered last-minute changes to the design.

Initially, the eagle on the Morgan dollar's reverse side had eight feathers. The re-designed eagle only had seven.

The Mint couldn't create new dies in time to keep up with the Bland-Allison mandate. So, the first 1878-P Morgan dollars had eight tail feathers.

Subsequently, some 1878 Morgan dollars had visible double-die errors. The Philadelphia Mint stamped new seven-feather dies were over the old ones. As a result, some collectors seek out rare "7-Over-8" 1878-P Morgan dollars.

In 2015, a collector sold an "8TF" 1878-P Morgan dollar for $55,812. Typically, these coins sell for $375 to $750 in MS condition.


In 2015, a collector bought an 1891-CC Morgan dollar at auction. The price? $199,750.

1891 Morgan dollars are rare. The U.S. Mint produced fewer Morgan dollars in 1891 than it did in prior years.

Moreover, the Treasury destroyed many Morgan dollars of this mintage during the first World War. The Pittman Act authorized the Treasury to melt silver dollars. As a result, it melted 90% of these dollar coins.

You might sell a typical 1891-CC Morgan dollar for $485, up to $4560. In 2021, auctioneers sold a handful of these coins for over $10,000 apiece.


One collector sold an 1893-S Morgan dollar at auction for $735,000. This is the auction record for any Morgan dollar.

The 1893-S is from the smallest Morgan dollar mintage. By 1893, the Mint was diverting silver to quarters and dimes, rather than dollars.

Most 1983 Morgan dollars were destroyed. The Pittman Act led the U.S. Treasury to melt 90% of them. Numismatists estimate there are only 6000 to 12,000 1893 Morgan dollars left. This survival estimate includes all grades.

Most 1893-S Morgan dollars fetch less than $100,000 at auction. But, the typical value range is still high.

Lower-tier 1893-S Morgan dollars sell for $2500. Numismatists value high-end versions at roughly $9000. It's not unheard of for 1893-S Morgan dollars to earn a five-figure valuation.


The 1921-D Morgan dollar was the only mintage struck in Denver. Denver began minting coins in 1906. That's two years after the U.S. Mint stopped producing Morgan dollars.

One collector sold an MS66 1921-D Morgan dollar for $49,938 at auction. 1921-D Morgan dollars in more typical conditions sell from $324 to $1200.

High-quality coins are rarer for the 1921-D. Denver struck these Morgan dollars on shallow-relief dies. This makes it more vulnerable to wearing down over time.

American Silver Eagle Value

The face value of the American Silver Eagle coin is $1.00. But, most buyers appraise American Silver Eagle coins by their value in an investment portfolio.

As of 2020, the average American Silver Eagle coin is worth $30. This is slightly more than the melt value of the coin. The silver in the American Eagle is worth approximately $24.

That said, many varieties are prized by collectors. You might sell these versions of the American Silver Eagle for considerably more than $30 at an auction.

Silver Eagle Variants and Rarities

Silver Eagle variants and rarities have a higher numismatic value than their melt value. Six American Silver Eagle coins stand out from the crowd.

1990 American Silver Eagle

In 2018, an auctioneer sold a 1990 American Silver Eagle coin for $13,000. This bullion coin has no mintmark.

The typical numismatic value of these coins ranges from $37 to $12,925. The median range for MS-70 variants hovers between $1000-$3000. Collectors generally sell 1990 Silver Eagles with lower ratings for less than $200.

1994 American Silver Eagle

In 2013, auctioneers sold a 1994 American Silver Eagle coin for $11,163. This was unusual. Most collectors have sold MS-70 1994 Silver Eagles for $1,000-$6000.

The value of this 1994 silver bullion shot up in 2000. It hasn't regressed towards the mean yet. But, so far, auctioneers have only sold lower-rated versions of this coin for less than $200.

2008-W Silver Eagle Reverse of 2007 Variety

In 2007, the U.S. Mint abruptly altered the intended design for the 2008 Silver Eagle coin. As a result, the Mint accidentally struck some 2008 coins with the reverse 2007 die.

These reverse-strike error coins are comparably rare. Numismatists estimate only 45,000 of these coin variants exist.

Very few collectors have auctioned these variant coins. In 2013, one collector sold a reverse-2007 Silver Eagle variant for $3,190. Numismatists estimate the typical value of these variants ranges from $475 to $1900.

1993 Philadelphia Set Variant

In 1993, the U.S. Mint released a bicentennial edition of the Silver Eagles. They sold these coins in sets.

The Philadelphia sets included American Silver Eagle proofs, an American Gold Eagle proof, and a U.S. Mint Bicentennial medal. In 2013, a collector sold the Silver Eagle proof from this set for $7,638.

Notably, this coin is rare because it is uncirculated and MS70. Other 1993 Silver Eagles were circulated widely due to their popularity.

Numismatists typically estimate a much lower value for these circulated 1993 Silver Eagles. The circulated versions sell from $26 to $204.

1999 American Silver Eagle

The 1999 American Silver Eagle bullion coin holds the auction record. In 2013, auctioneers sold an MS-70-rated American Silver Eagle for $13,000.

While there isn't a clear reason numismatists value this 1999 variant so highly, we can make a few guesses. 1999 was the only year the West Point Mint and Philadelphia mint produced this bullion coin.

The bullion version bears no mintmark. While there are plenty of uncirculated 1999 Silver Eagles, high-end versions are rarer.

Evaluators estimate over 7 million of these coins survive. But, far fewer are MS70.

You'll typically find 1999 American Silver Eagle coins selling from $33 to $9,899. The median range hovers between $100-$200.

Will the Silver Eagle Coin Be Worth More Later?

Interest in American Silver Eagle coins is growing worldwide. As the U.S. Mint continues to produce new mintings, the coin's popularity seems contagious.

No one can predict the exact value of a coin in the future. But, as a bullion coin with a unique heritage, the American Silver Eagle is shaping up to be a wise investment.