The Ultimate Guide to Proof American Eagles

The Ultimate Guide to Proof American Eagles
Ultimate Guuide to Proof American Eagles Title Banner

Proof American Eagles have always had a solid reputation as valuable, beautiful, and popular coins. Now available in gold, silver, platinum, and palladium, Eagles capture the interest of coin collectors around the world. Many coin buyers or investors often wonder, what is it that makes these coins so exciting? In this guide, we’ll take a deep dive into proof American eagle coins so that you’ll be well informed when it comes to buying or selling these stunning coins.

What Is a Proof American Eagle Coin?

A proof American Eagle is a collectible or numismatic coin produced by the US Mint. These coins differ from a traditional bullion silver eagle in their appearance and mintage. Below we’ll highlight some of the unique features of these coins, the rarity (relative to standard bullion coins), the various metals used for the production of the coins and some of the most recent design changes, which has been a hit with the investment community. Before delving into the details, we’ll begin with the history of these coins.

History of Eagle Coins

President Ronald Reagan signed the Gold Bullion Act of 1985 into law. After that, the Mint began working on the American Eagle program. The first Eagle coins were produced in 1986 and included both bullion and proof coins. At that time, only gold and silver Eagles were produced by the US Mint.

However, platinum Eagles were added in 1997. Palladium Eagles are the most recent addition, with proof Eagles appearing in 2018.

Eagle Design and Specifications

Some of the most beautiful designs from past coins have been used for American Eagle coins. In addition, many new designs have been used, mainly on reverse sides. The specifications, such as weight, purity, and face value differ among the various coins, as well. That being said, the most popular size American Eagle coin is the one troy ounce coin.

Production of Proof American Eagle Coins

Once you understand the process of minting a Proof American Eagle Coin, the value and notoriety that it receives may make more sense. Every part of the Proof American Eagle minting process comes from and is done in America. This includes the mine where the precious metals originated, the workers in the mines, and the Mint employees who put the final touches and packaging together for these Proof coins.

Below is an overview of the steps that the US Mint takes to mint these brilliant Proof American Eagle coins:

  1. Hand polished coin blanks are manually fed in presses that utilize special dies, differing from those used in standard American Eagle coins.
  2. Next, the Proof coins receive their highly detailed and frosted images that some say appear as if they were “floating above a mirror.” These details are achieved when the the coin is struck multiple times.

When talking about bullion eagles compared to proof eagles and the minting process each versions go through, the bullion coins are struck once and the process is more automated. Compare that to the multiple strike, hand fed and inspected proof eagles minted at the US Mint’s West Point facility. While side by side both coins have the same amount of gold, you can clearly see the perfection and beauty of the proof eagle over the standard bullion eagle.

Proof American Silver Eagles

Proof American Silver Eagle coins feature Adolph A. Weinman’s Walking Liberty design first shown on the 1916 half dollar. Liberty steps out boldly, draped in the American flag. She is holding laurel and oak branches. The front of the coin bears the inscriptions of “In God We Trust,” “Liberty,” and the year, keeping it simple, yet elegant.

2021 Proof Silver American Eagle
2021 Proof Silver American Eagle

The reverse of the American Eagle silver proof coins was the same from 1986-2020. The coins showed John Mercanti’s design of a heraldic eagle. The majestic bird clutches arrows in its left talon and an olive branch in its right.

In 2021, the image was switched to Emily Damstra’s depiction of an eagle landing, carrying an oak branch to its nest. The reverse inscriptions include “E Pluribus Unum,” “1 oz. fine silver,” and “one dollar.”

The proof American Silver Eagles were minted in San Francisco in 1986-1992, so they bear the “S” mint mark. From 1993-2000, these proof coins were minted in Philadelphia and bear the “P” mint mark. From 2001 to 2020, silver American Eagle proof coins were minted in West Point, with the “W’ mint mark. In 2021, they were minted in both San Francisco and West Point.

It is important to note, that the silver proof coin comes only in the 1 oz. size, with a face value of $1.

Proof American Gold Eagles

The Gold American Eagle proof coins feature Augustus St. Gaudens’ beautiful depiction of a standing Lady Liberty with flowing hair. She is holding a torch and an olive branch, with the capital

2021 Proof American Gold Eagles (Type 2)
2021 Proof American Gold Eagles (Type 2)

building in the background. The inscriptions read “Liberty” and the year.

From 1986-2020, the reverse design of the gold Eagle showed Miley Busiek’s eagle soaring above a nest. In 2021, a new design featuring a stunning side profile of an eagle created by Renata Gordon. Inscriptions include “United States of America,” E Pluribus Unum,” and “In God We Trust.” This coin has always been minted at West Point.

For new collectors out there, American Eagles differ from the $20 St. Gaudens coin originally designed by Augustus St. Gaudens.  This can be confusing, as up until 2020, the reverse side of American gold eagles depicted an image of two eagle in a nest.  However, the term “Double Eagle” refers to the denomination of the coins (not the number of eagles) and is associated with $20 gold coins from 1933 or earlier; most frequently, with the St. Gaudens gold coin.

The gold American Eagle comes in four denominations:

  • 1 oz – $50 face value
  • 1/2 oz – $25 face value
  • 1/4 oz – $10 face value
  • 1/10 oz – $5 face value

Proof Platinum Eagles

Proof platinum American Eagles have an obverse design based on John Mercanti’s Statue of Liberty in which the image shows just the shoulders, head, and crown of the statue. Inscriptions include “Liberty,” E Pluribus Unum,” and “In God We Trust.”

US Amer Plat Egle
Proof American Platinum Eagle

One thing that makes platinum eagles unique is the many different reverse designs. They include several different series of images, such as:

 

  • 1998-2002 – Vistas of Liberty, each with an eagle flying over a different region’s landscape
  • 2006-2008 – Foundations of Democracy, each honoring one of the three branches of government.
  • 2009-2014 – The Preamble of the Constitution, each covering core concepts of democracy
  • 2015-2016 – The Torches of Liberty, with images of freedom and liberty
  • 2018-2020 – The Preamble of the Declaration of Independence, featuring Lady Liberty and inscriptions of words from that important document
  • 2021-2025 – The First Amendment, starting with freedom of religion in 2021

From 2003-2005, unique but unrelated designs were used. The 2017 platinum Eagle showed an eagle soaring in front of the sun. Reverse inscriptions include “United States of America,” the face value, the number of ounces, and “.9995 Platinum.”

All the platinum proof American Eagles have the “W” mint mark. Since 2009, only 1 oz. platinum American Eagles have been minted. However, from 1997-2008, these coins came in four sizes:

  • 1 oz – $100 face value
  • 1/2 oz – $50 face value
  • 1/4 oz – $25 face value
  • 1/10 oz – $10 face value

Proof Palladium Eagles

2021 American Palladium Eagle
2021 American Palladium Eagle

The palladium Eagle bullion coin program started in 2017. However, proof palladium American Eagles have only been produced one year so far – in 2018. In 2019, a .9995 fine, 1.0005-ounce palladium reverse proof was produced at the West Point Mint.

 

The obverse design of the proof palladium eagle features an Adolph A. Weinman design. The coin is a high-relief version of the familiar Winged Liberty image from the familiar Mercury dime. Inscriptions include “Liberty,” “In God We Trust,” the year, and Weinman’s initials.

 

The reverse design is also high relief. It shows Weinman’s American Institute of Architects Gold Medal design with an eagle holding a branch. The reverse inscriptions include “United States of America,” “$25,” “1 oz Pd,” “.9995 fine,” and “E Pluribus Unum.” All the bullion palladium eagle coins up to the time of this writing are 1 oz, have a face value of $25, and come from the Philadelphia Mint, while the proof palladium eagles are produced at the West Point mint.

Proof Eagles vs. Bullion Coins

One of the main differences between any bullion and proof coins is who they are intended for. That is, bullion is intended for investors, while proof coins are meant for collectors. Proof coins have a more beautiful finish because of their more meticulous minting process. In addition, they are packaged by the Mint in an impressive presentation case and box.

What’s more, they come with a certificate of authenticity. A silver bullion coin, for example, doesn’t have the same mirror-like finish as the silver proof coin.

In the case of American Eagle proof coins, there’s another difference. The United States Mint is required by law to meet the demand for American Eagle bullion coins. Therefore, they are produced every year in every precious metal that has been introduced.

The same is not true for proof coins. In some cases, such as the palladium coin in 2017, a bullion coin is produced but not a proof coin. In most other cases, both types of coins are produced, but the number of proof coins fails to meet the demand for them.

The table below highlights the difference in coins minted when comparing bullion coins vs. Proof Coins:

Gold and Silver Eagle Mintage Numbers

It is clear that the number of proof eagles minted each year are substantially less than standard bullion eagles due to the manual process of minting the proof coins that we discussed at the beginning of this article. Due to their beauty and rarity, Proof Eagles contain the same amount of underlying precious metals, however, bring much more value to the table when comparing the two versions.

Most Valuable Proof American Eagles

Proof American Eagles, of course, are worth far more than their face value. The value of their precious metal content alone ensures that, however, some proof Eagles are worth even more. The first year a proof coin is produced, as well as years when mintage numbers were low tend to have greater value.

Some of the most valuable coins that have come out of this program include:

  • 1993 Silver American Eagle Proof
  • 1994 Silver American Eagle Proof
  • 1995-W Silver American Eagle Proof
  • 2019-S Silver American Eagle Proof
  • 2020-W 75 privy Gold American Eagle Proof
  • 2018-W Palladium American Eagle Proof
  • 2015-W Platinum American Eagle Proof

Best Proof American Eagle Sets

Proof sets usually include one of each denomination for that coin. You can also buy sets that have multiple coins of exactly the same type and denomination. While some of the proof Eagles never came in more than one denomination, such as proof silver eagles, others did to cater to demand and interest from collectors.

As mentioned above, some sets include coins consisting of multiple denominations, such as four coin proof gold eagle sets. Typically, the most valuable years are the year of introduction and years in which few coins were minted. Here are some of the best proof American Eagles coin sets.

  • 2011 American silver eagle five coin set
  • 1995-W Gold & Silver Eagle five coin proof set
  • 1986-2021 Complete Silver American Eagle proof 35-coin set

More Interesting Facts about American Eagles

Here are a few other facts about this outstanding coin program:

  • In 2021, the mint celebrated the 35th anniversary of the Eagle coin program. They created updated designs for the silver and gold coins using the original design assets.
  • No proof Silver American Eagles were produced in 2009
  • Security measures, such as a reeded edge, were introduced in 2021

Getting the Best Value in Proof American Eagles

Whether you want to add proof American Eagles to your coin collection or are ready to sell Eagles you already possess, it pays to deal with a knowledgeable and reputable coin dealer. At Atlanta Gold & Coin Buyers, we can help you determine what you have, find what you want, and make the best deal possible.

We deal in gold, silver, and platinum American Eagle proof and bullion coins, as well as a wide variety of other coins. Speak with our precious metals advisors to learn the ins and outs of collecting American Eagle proof coins to learn what this coin can mean for you.

Tony Davis
Tony Davis