Posted on May 16, 2022
Most people regard American eagle bullion coins as the premier bullion coin in the world. For investors and collectors of precious metals, American eagle coins represent one of the most coveted bullion coins money can buy.
So, what exactly are “bullion” coins? How and where do you actually buy American eagle bullion coins, what are your options, and what should you consider before making a purchase?
We’ll share all that and more below.
Bullion is refined, high-purity physical metal such as gold, silver, platinum, and palladium, formed into bars, coins, or rounds. Though bullion is made from refined, pure precious metals, the minting process of these pieces is straightforward. “Bullion” coins are distinguished from other types of coins in that they’re priced and valued on their weight of precious metal alone. There’s no expectation of aftermarket value growth beyond the bullion coin’s precious metal content.
Proof coins are similar to bullion coins in many ways but are produced using a more rigorous, complex process that involves striking the coins twice and finishing them to a mirror polish. This is an extremely labor-intensive process, even in our mechanized age. Proof coins are produced in much lower numbers than bullion coins, increasing their scarcity and collectability. Proof coins, due to their limited supply and greater eye appeal, do have a possibility of aftermarket appreciation due to rarity, collector demand and other factors. Rare or historical coins are similarly valued based on factors beyond their precious metal content. Collectively, non-bullion coins are sometimes called “numismatic” or “collectible” coins.
This is the primary difference that distinguishes bullion coins from numismatic coins.
American eagle coins are part of a precious metal coin production program for investors produced by the U.S. Mint and sold through approved dealers. According to the U.S. Mint, the objective of the program is to “provide investors with a convenient and cost-effective way to add a small amount of physical gold, silver, platinum, or palladium to their investment portfolios.” The program also produces American eagle proof coins and American eagles with a fresh-from-the-mint look, known in the precious metals industry as “Brilliant, Uncirculated (BU) condition,” both of which appeal to buyers for different reasons.
Unlike most other bullion coins from world mints, the American eagle bullion coin doesn’t have a mint mark to indicate where the specific coin was minted. That’s one way to distinguish the U.S. Mint’s bullion-grade coins from numismatic collectibles.
The American eagle coin program began in 1986, initially offering bullion coins in gold and silver. In 1997, the program started minting platinum coins, followed by the addition of palladium American Eagle coins in 2017.
Today, American eagles are available in the following weights and precious metals:
|Metal||Purity||Available Weights||Face Value|
|Gold||91.67%||1/10 oz, 1/4 oz, 1/2 oz, 1 oz||$5, $10, $25, $50|
*Note that platinum American eagle proof coins are available in fractional weights, though the bullion platinum eagle is produced exclusively in the 1 oz. weight.
With the rollout of a newly-designed American eagle coin in July 2021, Type 2 American eagles are the newest iteration of the gold and silver American eagle coins (the platinum and palladium American eagles remain unchanged so far). Gold and silver American eagle coins produced between 1986 and mid-2021 are now called Type 1 American eagles and the late-2021 models onward are Type 2 coins.
The 2021 redesign of the silver eagles features additional security marks, like an anti-counterfeit reeded edge. Aesthetically, though the obverse image on the new American Eagle looks almost exactly the same as the Type 1 coins, the reverse design is completely updated. Type 1 American eagles depict John Mercanti’s heraldic eagle with wings spread, holding an olive branch and arrows in its talons.
The silver Type 2 redesign features Emily Damstra’s eagle on the reverse, which is holding an olive branch and arrows in its talons with wings up as if the bird is landing. Another notable change is the absence of the 13 stars on the reverse of the Type 2, which sit above the eagle’s head on the Type 1 coin.
For the gold American eagles, the obverse side on both the Type 1 and Type 2 coin remains largely unchanged. However, there are minor details now visible in the Type 2 coin – Lady Liberty’s eyes are enhanced and the olive branch and shape of the rays are restored. We say “restored” because the obverse wasn’t changed, per se, so much as refreshed – the U.S. Mint went back to the artist’s original designs, and with today’s technology, they were able to capture a level of detail in the original designs that weren’t possible previously. So we can’t really say the obverse is new – however, it certainly is, without a doubt, better.
On the flip side, the reverse of the gold eagle coin is completely different. In place of Miley Frances Busiek’s Type 1 design featuring an adult male eagle flying above its mate and eaglet, the Type 2 gold eagles bear Jennie Norris’ portrait of a close-up, highly-detailed profile of a bald eagle.
In terms of pricing, both gold and silver Type 1 American eagles are typically more expensive than Type 2 American eagles. The Type 1 eagle coins are the original American eagles, and since they’re no longer in production, their numbers are by definition, limited – they fetch a higher price than the more readily available Type 2 coins, which will likely be minted for another 24 years.
Choosing between the different American eagles comes down to personal preference, availability, size of the investment, storage considerations, and price. Being among the most popular bullion coins in the world, American eagles are constantly in high demand and can sometimes be difficult to find. Yet, because there is often a more robust secondary market for gold eagle bullion coins, they can be easier to purchase than, say, palladium eagle bullion coins, which have lower total mintages, a shorter window of production, a smaller market and are minted from a more rare precious metal.
The size of your investment will also play a key part in which American eagle coins you buy. Since prices between these coins can vary significantly, your budget may drive your decision. As an example, an ounce of silver costs less than $40 while an ounce of palladium will run you in the range of $3,000. Platinum and gold are typically in the low four-figure range, so if you only have $500, you’ll likely be limited to 1/10 oz gold and/or 1 oz silver American Eagles.
Due to the price differences between silver American eagles and their gold, platinum, and palladium counterparts, proper storage can be a concern for some. A $10,000 investment in silver American Eagles could result in around 250 coins, which would require a larger safe than a $10,000 purchase of roughly eight platinum American eagles.
Of course, you don’t have to limit yourself to just one precious metal. You can buy any mixture of gold, silver, platinum, and palladium eagles that fits in your budget (and into your safe or other storage). For example, if you're a silver stacker, you might buy just a handful of silver eagles once a month. Or if you’re a gold bug with a taste for platinum, you might buy a platinum and gold eagle together.
In fact, most investors recommend (and many studies show) that diversification is a huge benefit for any investment portfolio, including precious metals.
You can buy American eagle coins from a number of different sellers, both online and in person. Before the widespread adoption of the internet, visiting a coin shop, coin auction, or coin show were virtually the only options for buying American eagle coins. While those options are still available today, they are far less popular than buying online. Unfortunately, like most government mints worldwide, U.S. Mint does not sell bullion American eagles directly to the public. Instead, they rely on a network of authorized dealers to distribute their bullion coins to individuals.
The best place to buy American eagle coins is from the top online bullion dealers, like BullionMax. A reputable online bullion dealer will have the best selection of American eagles, competitive pricing, and easily accessible reviews. Unlike buying in person, purchasing American eagles online can be done conveniently from home and at any time of day or night. Many online dealers will even offer free shipping, so you can get American eagles delivered to your doorstep.
Buying online from reputable bullion dealers isn’t the only option for purchasing American eagles on the web. If you have a greater tolerance for risk, you can also look for American eagles at online auction sites. Most people are familiar with eBay, which, though reputable as a company, is simply a platform for millions of sellers to auction off their own items. Unfortunately, eBay can only do so much to ensure its sellers deal honestly, leaving you as the buyer susceptible to certain risks such as fraud.
There are some other considerations to take into account when buying American eagle bullion coins, especially when buying bullion coins online. Regardless of where you make your purchase, you’ll need to make arrangements to safely store and insure your American eagles; this can be at home in a safe, at a precious metals depository, or in a bank safe deposit box. Even the most secure storage isn’t impervious to loss from theft or damage, so you should always insure your American eagle coins.
If you’re buying American eagle coins online, make sure to check the shipping fees and factor those costs into your overall purchase price. Many online dealers charge for shipping for orders less than $200 and many, including BullionMax, offer free shipping on orders over $199.
You’ll also want to buy exclusively from sellers who provide proper packaging for your American eagles, which can include individual casing, sleeves and tubes, monster boxes, or other boxes made specifically for storing bullion coins.
When you’re ready to buy American eagle coins from the best online bullion dealer, visit BullionMax to check out your options.