What You Need to Know Before You Sell Silver Eagles
American silver eagles, the official 1 oz silver bullion coin of the United States, are the most recognized and desirable pure silver coins available in the market today. These coins have been produced annually since 1986 with combined mintages in the hundreds of millions.
This large mintage hasn’t taken anything away from the value and desirability of the coins. If anything, it has enhanced it.
On the surface, one would think that all silver eagles were created equally, but that’s not necessarily the case. There are different dates, types, mintages, and special edition coins that all trade at different prices. It’s important to be aware of these factors and which coins, in particular, sell at higher rates before you sell silver eagles. This will improve your chances of success and allow you to maximize your payout.
Before we delve into the details of American silver eagles, we’ll begin our discussion on the history of silver eagles, and how they came to pass.
We’ll also discuss the three different varieties or types of silver eagles and which coins sell at a premium. We’ll wrap up our discussion with some other interesting facts surrounding these coins, including how they’re packaged or issued by the U.S. Mint and sold to the public.
History of Silver Eagles
American Silver Eagle
We’ll first begin with the history of these highly desirable coins. The decision to have the U.S. Mint begin producing silver bullion coins is the solution that was proposed in handling the abundance of silver from the Defense National Stockpile. On January 27, 1983, Senator McClure introduced the first silver bearing coin bill. After more than three years of legislation, Title II of Public Law 99-61, which is known as the Liberty Coin Act, was approved by Congress on July 9, 1985.
The act authorized the issuance of American gold and silver eagle coins, which were first produced by the United States Mint in 1986 and have been issued annually since that time. To this day (some 36 years later), American silver eagle coins are still the only official silver bullion coin of the United States, although a slight change was made to the coins in 2021.
All silver eagles depict an image of Walking Liberty on the obverse and until 2021, a Heraldic eagle on the reverse side of the coin. The Mint redesigned the reverse image of the coin midway through 2021, which is now a flying bald eagle with an oak branch in its talons. To differentiate between the two images, the original reverse image is referred to as a “Type 1,” while the new reverse is referred to as a “Type 2.”
Both coins contain exactly one troy ounce of silver, have a face value of $1, which means that they’re legal tender, and are guaranteed by the U.S. government to contain the specified purity and weight of the coins.
3 Types of Silver Eagles
Bullion Silver Eagles
We’ll begin our discussion with the standard bullion silver eagle, which is considered an investment coin and is most familiar to the public. These coins are typically sold in tubes of 20 coins and are available for purchase from coin dealers and other authorized providers. In other words, the U.S. Mint does not sell these coins directly to the public. Most years trade at similar rates, but there are a handful that sell at slightly higher premiums.
In particular, silver eagles from 1986, 1994, and 1996 trade at higher levels than most other years. Additionally, original rolls of silver eagles from 1999 and earlier are in slightly higher demand than silver eagles produced in 2000 or later.
Proof Silver Eagles
Most people are familiar with the standard bullion silver eagle, but beginning in 1986, a proof version of the American silver eagle was also issued. These coins were produced at much lower quantities than their bullion counterparts, and unlike the bullion silver eagle, are available directly to the public from the U.S. Mint.
These coins are also available through the secondary market and may be the best way to acquire them for most folks, especially if they’re in search of a particular year.
The primary difference between proof and bullion silver eagles is that proof silver eagles are numismatic coins. Numismatic means that they’re bought and sold primarily for their collectible value as opposed to their silver content. These coins are especially popular among coin collectors. Considering that they’ve been issued by the U.S. Mint annually since 1986, except for 2009, assembling a complete collection of these coins is within reach for most coin collectors.
Most proof silver eagles trade at similar rates to each other considering that nearly all of them were produced in quantities of 500,000 or more. However, the mintage of 1993 and 1994 proof silver eagles was slightly less. 405,000 1993 and 372,000 1994 silver eagles were produced, but the 1994 trades for roughly 25% more than the 1993 proof eagle.
Burnished Silver Eagles
The third type of silver eagles produced by the U.S. Mint are what are commonly referred to as “burnished” silver eagles. These coins were first produced in 2006 and have been produced annually except for 2009 and 2010. These coins exhibit more of a matte-like finish, and like the proof silver eagles, are available for direct purchase by the public from the U.S. Mint.
On the surface, these coins may have a similar appearance to the bullion silver eagles, but there are slight differences that help to properly identify them. In addition to having more of a matte finish, the coins can be identified by a “w” mint mark on the reverse side of the coin. This mint mark indicates that the coin was produced at the West Point Mint.
However, it’s important to note that most proof silver eagles also have a “w” mint mark on the reverse side of the coin. The difference between the coins is that proof silver eagles are prepared with a special dye and are double struck, which provides a mirror-like finish background and a frosted foreground.
Burnished silver eagles sell for slightly more than bullion silver eagles and for the most part trade at similar rates amongst each other. The only exception, at least as far as standard issue coins go, is the 2006 burnished silver eagle, which trades for a few dollars more.
Special Edition Silver Eagles
The U.S. Mint has issued a number of limited edition, commemorative and anniversary sets over the years, which were produced in different quantities.
As you would expect, they trade at different prices based on their rarity and popularity. While a discussion of the total number of sets and individual coins within each set is beyond the scope of this article, we’ll highlight for you what are commonly considered the three most valuable coins. Furthermore, we’ll limit our discussion to raw or ungraded coins and standard strike coins.
1995-W Proof Silver Eagle
The 1995-w proof silver eagle, which was only available as part of a 5-coin proof gold and silver eagle anniversary set is generally considered the most sought-after and valuable of the silver eagles. Please note that this coin has a “w” mint mark on the reverse side, whereas the standard proof silver eagle, issued by the Philadelphia Mint, has a “p” mint mark.
A total of 30,000 10-year anniversary sets were issued by the U.S. Mint, and since this coin was only available as part of the 5-coin set, only 30,000 of these coins exist. Because of the limited production, they trade at a substantial premium over most other proof silver eagles, regularly fetching $2,000 or more. Certified versions, especially those graded as a perfect “70” by NGC or PCGS, trade north of $10,000.
The 2019-s enhanced reverse proof silver eagle made quite a splash when it was released by the Mint in 2019. There was a good bit of hype surrounding the release in part because of the limited mintage 30,000 coins, the same as the 1995-w proof silver eagle.
One interesting aspect of this coin is that it was issued with a numbered certificate of authenticity (COA). The serial number corresponds with the order in which the coin was produced. For example, the first coin will have a serial number of “1,” while the last coin will have a serial number of “30,000.” When first issued, there was tremendous demand for some of the earlier serial numbers. In fact, shortly after their release, a seller on eBay was asking north of $100,000 for serial number “1.”
Demand has cooled slightly since the release of these coins, and even though they have the same mintage as the 1995-w proof silver eagle, they sell for substantially less. At the time of this writing, this coin trades in the $800 – $950 range.
2008-W Reverse of 2007 Silver Eagle
As we discussed above, most burnished silver eagles trade slightly above bullion silver eagles, but there is one exception, the 2008-w reverse of 2007 burnished silver eagle. On the surface, this sounds like a mouthful, but it’s basically describing the reverse side of the coin.
Shortly following the issuance of the 2008 burnished silver eagle, collectors identified an error or oversight on the reverse side of some of the coins. With respect to standard-issued burnished silver eagles the “U” in the word “United” on the reverse side has a spur and the dash between the words “Silver” and “One” is angled.
The error or variety coin has the reverse side of a 2007 burnished silver eagle, which is slightly different. The 2007 burnished silver eagle has a bowl-shaped “U” and a dash between the words “Silver” and “One” that is shaped more like a tilde. This coin, when accompanied by a box and COA, trades between $300 and $350.
No one knows for certain how many of these coins exist, but the U.S. Mint estimates that 47,000 of these varieties exist. This is in comparison to a total mintage of 533,000. In other words, approximately 10% of the 2008 burnished silver eagles were produced with the 2007 reverse.
How Silver Eagles are Packaged
We’ve referenced some of the U.S. Mint packaging used on the different types of silver eagles but will go into a bit more depth in this section so that you can clearly identify which coin is which.
Standard bullion silver eagle coins are produced in rolls of 20 coins by the U.S. Mint. The tubes are opaque with a green US Treasury cap. Since these are investment coins and were never released into general circulation, they should essentially be perfect. Coins that have been handled exhibit contact marks and or toning. The U.S. Mint distributes these coins to authorized dealers in 500-count boxes, oftentimes referred to as “monster boxes.”
The term “monster box” is affectionately given to describe the large and heavy green boxes containing 500 coins that are distributed by the U.S. Mint. The mint places straps on the boxes (lengthwise and widthwise) to prevent the coins from becoming loose while in transit. If sealed, they typically carry a slightly higher premium than boxes that aren’t sealed. This is primarily because potential buyers have less concern about the coins being counterfeit and eliminates the need to double-check the coins to confirm their authenticity.
The burnished and proof coins are packaged differently than bullion silver eagles. Rather than consisting of tubes of 20 coins, they’re individually packaged in boxes with a certificate of authenticity.
The burnished silver eagle box includes the following words “One Ounce Silver Uncirculated Coin” on the lid while the lid of the proof silver eagle has the following notation: “One Ounce Proof Silver Bullion Coin.” The packaging of the proof silver eagles is a bit more elaborate, as they include a velvet case in addition to the outer box.
In summary, we began our discussion with the Liberty Coin Act, which led to the issuance of silver eagles beginning in 1986. We then highlighted the three primary types of silver eagles, namely bullion silver eagles, proof silver eagles and burnished silver eagles.
We continued our discussion with a list of some of the most valuable coins from each category and provided some estimated values, where possible.
As we noted, in some cases, these coins can sell in the hundreds of dollars, if not more.
We then discussed which coins are available for direct purchase from the public and how they’re packaged so you can easily identify which coins are in your collection.
We regularly deal in all three types of American eagle silver coins that we highlighted above and have the expertise to guide you during your visit, helping you to realize the most value when selling silver eagles.