First released November 24, 1986, the 1 oz Silver American Eagle has become the most popular Silver bullion coin not only in the United States, but in the entire world. In fact, this Silver coin is so highly sought after that in 2014 and 2015 the U.S. Mint could not match its level of production to consumer demand. In 2013, after a historic drop in Silver prices, demand increased so much that the U.S. Mint had to ration the sale of Silver coins for 18 months.
The driving force behind the creation of the Silver American Eagle was the government’s desire to sell off some of the Silver from the Defense National Stockpile. Although states with heavy mining interests and some legislators opposed the sale of the Silver, in 1985, the Senate agreed to permit the sale of Silver after an amendment was made to the bill permitting such action. Later in 2002, after it became apparent the stockpile of Silver would be depleted, an additional bill was passed that would allow the government to purchase Silver on the open market once it became necessary.
The design of this Silver bullion coin is steeped in American heritage and tradition. On the obverse of the coin is Adolph A. Weinman’s “Walking Liberty” design which was originally used on the Walking Liberty Half Dollar from 1916 to 1947. This iconic design was a public favorite and thus it was reinstituted years later on the 1 oz Silver American Eagle. The reverse features a heraldic eagle holding an olive branch in one talon and arrows in the other with a shield on its chest. In the beak of the bird is a banner that reads “E Pluribus Unum” and above the eagle are 13 five-pointed stars representing the original 13 colonies. This image mirrors the Great Seal of the United States.
These Silver bullion coins do not have mintmarks, as opposed to the Proof and Burnished versions, which do include a mintmark. From 1986 to 1998, they were manufactured at the San Francisco Mint. From 1999 to 2000, production was moved to the Philadelphia Mint. Since 2001, the 1 oz Silver American Eagle has been produced at the West Point Mint in New York, which has been referred to as the “Fort Knox of Silver.” Starting in 2011, due to the coin’s massive popularity, the San Francisco Mint again began minting coins to supplement the output from the West Point Mint.