Basics of American Silver Eagles
The American Silver Eagle came into existence in 1986 with the issuance of three types of coins. All American Silver Eagles contain one Troy ounce of 99.9% fine silver and have the same design features on the obverse and the reverse, but each type is manufactured differently and for different purposes.
The three types of American Silver Eagles
Bullion (aka Uncirculated) Silver Eagles are manufactured to provide a vehicle for investors to buy 99.9% pure silver. These coins are manufactured with the same methodologies used for common Business Strike (spending money) coins. Their value coincides with the market price (aka spot price) of silver.
Here is an example Bullion Silver Eagle:
Burnished Silver Eagles are a higher quality coin than the bullion coins and are manufactured primarily for collectors. Unlike the bullion coins, the Burnished coins sometimes have a Mint Mark indicating the US Mint where they are manufactured. The coin blanks (planchets) are polished (burnished) before manufacture. Each blank is placed into the coin stamping machine one by one by hand. Their value is generally slightly greater than the spot price of silver, depending on market conditions.
In 2006 the burnished Silver Eagles were given a new satin finish at the West Point mint. These were made each year since 2006 except for 2009 and 2010.
Here is an example burnished Silver Eagle with the Satin Finish:
Proof Silver Eagles are the highest quality of the three types and are manufactured primarily for collectors. The flat portions of the surface area (the fields) are mirrored and the detailed sculpted areas (the devices) are frosted white (cameo). The coin planchets are higher quality than the ones used to manufacture burnished Silver Eagles. The Proof Silver Eagles are treated under extreme heat, then burnished, and then hand polished. They are struck at least twice under extreme pressure to achieve the highest level of detail possible.These coins are given a mint mark depending on the mint where they are manufactured. Their value is generally more than two times the spot price of silver.
Here is an example proof Silver Eagle:
The mints where American Silver Eagles were manufactured over the years
The Mint Mark on American Silver Eagles is on the reverse of the coin to the left of the eagle’s tail as shown below for an example proof coin from West Point:
P = Philadelphia, S = San Francisco, W = West Point
|1999||P and W||n/a||P|
|2000||P and W||n/a||P|
|2011||P||W and S||W|
This completes the discussion of the Basics of American Silver Eagles, but there’s plenty of additional material to be discovered. 1995 was an interesting year. Have fun researching this fascinating topic.