The American eagle coin series has become one of the most popular choices for investors looking to buy precious metals bullion coins. The prestige of the U.S. Mint and the recognizability, long production history, and sheer liquidity of American eagle coins have propelled these pieces to the top of almost every investor’s list. Today, the American eagle bullion coins are available in the four primary precious metals: gold, silver, platinum, and palladium.
The American eagle coins have a rich history with designs harkening back to the early 1900s. Learn how the American eagle bullion coin series started and where it is today here.
Source: U.S. Mint
In 1933, private ownership of most gold bullion and coins was outlawed. Over fifty years later, the U.S. had left the gold standard and the world was going crazy for Krugerrands, the first modern gold bullion coins. Private gold ownership was now legal once again but there just weren’t many options for investors.
The Gold Bullion Act of 1985 directed the United States Secretary of the Treasury to mint gold coins (from gold mined in the U.S.) in four different denominations. One year later, the U.S. Mint began releasing the first coins in the American Eagle Coin Program, a campaign designed to allow investors to buy government-made bullion coins. Originally, the American eagle coins were only available in gold and were intended to be an alternative to the popular South African Krugerrand as well as the Canadian maple leaf.
In 1986, the U.S. Mint also began issuing the silver American eagle, followed by the platinum American eagle in 1997 and, most recently, the palladium American eagle in 2017. Long before the 1986 release of gold and silver American eagle coins, the U.S. Mint had made $10 gold coins known simply as the eagle. These eagles were produced for nearly 150 years from 1792 to 1933. There were other variations: the half eagle $5 coin and the less-common $20 double eagle were historic coins – and, in fact, the obverse of the modern American gold eagle reuses the 1907 double eagle design by famed artist and sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens.
Every year since 1986, the U.S. Mint has made gold and silver bullion American eagles. The gold, platinum, and palladium American eagles are all minted at the U.S. West Point facility in New York, while the silver eagles are made at the Philadelphia, San Francisco, and West Point Mint facilities. Unlike other U.S. Mint coins, bullion-grade American eagles do not bear a mint mark identifying the facility of production. (This is one way even an amateur collector can distinguish bullion coins from other grades.) In 2021, the U.S. Mint produced 28,275,000 American eagle coins across all facilities.
In the second half of 2021, the U.S. Mint gave the gold and silver American eagles a makeover, issuing an updated version of these coins – known as Type 2 American eagles – with new designs. Though the design of the gold and silver American eagles changed, the denominations, purity, and alloy of each remain the same.
Gold American eagles are the sole bullion-grade coins in the series offered in any weight besides 1 oz. In addition to the standard 1 oz weight, gold American eagles come in 1/10 oz, 1/4 oz, and 1/2 oz (collectively called “fractionals”). Regardless of size, gold eagles are minted in 22-karat, 0.9167 pure gold – an alloy known as “crown gold.” The toughness and durability of this alloy prevents scratches and damage and is quite similar to the alloys used to mint the U.S.’s historical eagle coins.
You might be wondering– if the gold eagles are only 0.9167 pure or 22 karat gold, does the 1 oz eagle have less than 1 oz of gold? Don’t worry! The 1 oz gold eagles actually weigh 1.0909 oz (which is 1 oz of gold and 0.0909 oz of alloy). Yes, it’s confusing…
The American silver eagle, platinum eagle, and palladium eagle are available only as 1 oz coins. Silver eagles are 99.9% pure, while platinum and palladium eagles are 99.95% pure.
Today, platinum American eagles are unique among the eagle series as the only coin that features changing designs. On the other hand, palladium eagles alternate between different finishes.
Both gold and silver eagles are available as standard bullion coins and with proofs, though there have been certain years, like 2009, where the mint didn’t produce gold and silver eagle proof coins.
American eagles are legal currency and come with a guaranteed face value in addition to the melt value of the coin’s precious metal. The American eagle platinum proof coin has the highest face value at $100. Gold American eagles have a face value of $50 for the 1 oz coin, $25 for the 1/2 oz, $10 for the 1/4 oz, and $5 for the 1/10 oz. A 1 oz palladium eagle has a $25 face value, and the silver 1 oz American eagles bear a face value of $1.
Why are the face values so low? According to the U.S. Mint:
All American eagle bullion coins are legal tender coins. Although their face value is largely symbolic, it provides proof of their authenticity as official U.S. coinage.
For those who want to invest precious metals and coins in their IRA, there are certain rules governing which bullion products can be part of an IRA. In the past, only gold and silver American eagles were IRA eligible, but today, investors can enjoy holding all American Eagle coins in their IRAs.
In the early 1900s, President Theodore Roosevelt commissioned sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens to help design U.S. currency. Roosevelt was particularly taken by Saint-Gaudens’ Lady Liberty design, which appeared on both the $10 and $20 gold liberty coins. The $10 coin features the profile of Lady Liberty with a Native American headdress. The Saint-Gaudens $20 gold coin produced between 1907 and 1933 depicts Lady Liberty facing forward, holding a torch in one hand and an olive branch in the other.
The Walking Liberty design by Adolph Weinman dates back to 1916, where it occupied the obverse of the half dollar coin for over 30 years. The design features Lady Liberty walking toward the sun with her right arm extended and her left holding an olive branch.
The reverse of the American eagle coins features none other than the majestic bald eagle itself, portrayed in several different images. On the Type 1 silver eagles, John Mercanti’s heraldic eagle is pictured holding arrows and an olive branch in its talons, along with a ribbon in its beak reading E Pluribus Unum. Type 2 silver eagles are stamped with Emily Damstra’s eagle, with its wings spread and an oak branch in its talons.
Type 1 gold eagles are emblazoned with Miley Busiek’s eagle design, showing a male bald eagle flying over its nest with an olive branch in its claws. Below the male eagle, the female eagle sits in the aerie with its eaglet. On the Type 2 gold eagles, the lifelike bald eagle profile design by Jennie Norris is pictured on the reverse.
Other bald eagle reverse designs include Adolph Weinman’s eagle with a branch and Thomas Rogers’s eagle flying above a rising sun with seven shining rays.
Every coin in the American eagle series contains certain inscriptions, though their location may vary with each. American eagles all have a year of production, a face value, and the precious metal type and weight. In addition, each coin is stamped with United States of America, E Pluribus Unum, In God We Trust, and Liberty. Platinum and palladium eagles are also inscribed with the metal’s fineness.
Looking to add American eagle bullion coins to your portfolio? You’re in the right place. Scroll up to view our entire offering of gold, silver, platinum, and palladium eagles.