by Louis Golino for Coin Week
For several years collectors of American silver eagles have speculated about whether the U.S. Mint would issue a limited edition set of American silver eagles to mark the coin’s 25th anniversary in 2011. The coin was first produced in 1986.
This issue has been on collector’s minds ever since the 2006 release of the 20th anniversary set, which included the first-ever reverse proof U.S. coin and which was limited to 250,000 units with a 10 per household limit. That set, which originally sold for $100, is today worth about $350, but there was so much interest in it about six months after its release, and major dealer promotions, that the set was briefly worth over $600.
Many of the coins from the 2006 sets have been graded, and over time sets in their original government packaging are likely to become scarcer. Sets graded MS/PF69 sell today for about the same amount as a raw set, but 70-graded sets carry a substantial premium.
That set was so popular and successful that collectors have been eagerly anticipating announcement of a 25th anniversary set. I recall a letter to the editor of mine that was published in Numismatic News a couple years ago in which I said that one way to curry the favor of the legions of disappointed Mint customers would be to issue such a set.
On August 19 collectors’ dreams were satisfied when U.S. Mint Deputy Director Richard A. Peterson announced during the Chicago ANA World’s Fair of Money (http://www.usmint.gov/pressroom/?action=press_release&id=1276 ) that in late October the Mint will issue a five-coin set with a 100,000 mintage and a limit of 5 per household.
The set will include the following coins: a proof silver eagle from the West Point mint, a burnished silver eagle produced at the West Point mint, a burnished eagle produced at the San Francisco mint, a bullion eagle from either the West Point or San Francisco Mint, and of greatest interest to collectors, a reverse proof silver eagle produced at the Philadelphia mint. All of the coins except the bullion one will carry mint marks indicating where they where produced.
The coins will come housed in a special lacquered wood case with a certificate of authenticity.
The reverse proof and the San Francisco coins are expected to be unique to the set, and with a mintage of 100,000, will become the second-lowest mintage silver eagle coins after the 1995-W proof-only silver eagle. The 1995 coin was only available to collectors who purchased a five-coin set with four American gold eagle coins and the proof silver eagle. It has a mintage of 30,125 and currently sells for about $3,000, but it sold for over $5,000 several years ago.
In 2008, collectors discovered some burnished silver eagles were made with the previous year’s reverse. Those coins, which have a mintage of 46,318, are technically the second-lowest mintage coin in the series. The mintage figure for this coin was obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by a collector. Because this coin is an error variety, not everyone includes it as part of the basic silver eagle set. As I have said before, I believe these coins are very undervalued at their current market value of about $400. The future performance of these coins will be shaped in large part by the extent to which collectors view them as necessary to a complete set of silver eagles.
No price has been set yet for the 25th anniversary sets, and given rising silver prices, the Mint plans to set a price as close to release date as possible. Based on current silver prices and the Mint’s recent prices for collector versions of silver eagles, I anticipate a price in the range of $350-400.
In October the Mint will also release the "W" burnished coin separately. This will be the first time since 2008 that the Mint will issue burnished silver eagles. So far the 2006 ‘W" silver eagle is the lowest mintage coin in the burnished series with a final mintage of 466,573.
Coin analyst Eric Jordan wrote in his 2010 book, Modern Commemorative Coins, that the burnished silver eagles are the modern equivalent of Carson City silver dollars, which are very popular with Morgan dollar collectors and which have lower mintages than most other Morgan dollars.
Mr. Jordan said: "The ‘W’ silver Eagles are the keys to a 200 million and growing total population and have lower mintages than the surviving common date CC dollars and don’t cost anything like $200 each yet. The ‘W’ silver eagles are the modern CC dollar and will likely have prices that reflect this reality over time."
The 25th anniversary set will undoubtedly sell out very quickly, probably within hours of its release.
Rising metal prices may result in even greater interest in this series and higher secondary market value because gold prices are reaching the point that they are pricing many collectors out of gold coins they used to collect. And metals analysts expect silver prices to eventually greatly surpass the $50 level reached this spring.
American silver eagles are the most widely traded and collected silver coins in the world.
Louis Golinois a coin collector and numismatic writer, whose articles on coins have appeared in Coin World, Numismatic News, and a number of different coin web sites. He collects U.S. and European coins and is a member of the ANA, PCGS, NGC, and CAC. He has also worked for the U.S. Library of Congress and has been a syndicated columnist and news analyst on international affairs for a wide variety of newspapers and web sites.