The American Eagle 20th Anniversary Set

Posted by Jay Turner, NGC Grader and Attributor on 9/1/2006

As the American Eagle program celebrates a milestone anniversary, it is launching a commemorative set with the potential to be an instant classic.

Modern Coin of the Month Has it really been 20 years since the American Eagle program started? Actually no, it has been 21, but that is beside the point. The American Eagle 20th Anniversary set is about to be released by the United States Mint to celebrate the milestone.

The American Eagle was first released in late 1986. Since then, it has become a very popular item among collectors, dealers and investors alike. The governmentally backed silver, gold and later platinum coinage is not only something that could be trusted, but also collected and traded easily.

In 1995, the 10th Year Anniversary of the American Eagle was celebrated with the release of a 10th Anniversary set. The set included one each of the Proof Gold Eagle denominations, 1/10 ounce, ¼ ounce, ½ ounce and 1 ounce. It also included a 1995 Proof Silver Eagle featuring a W, or West Point, mint mark. This was the first Silver Eagle to feature the W mintmark. The set sold for $995 and, with a total of 30,125 minted, the Eagle became an instant rarity, quickly surpassing the price of the four gold coins combined. Today the set sells for about $7,000 and the silver eagle sells for about $5,000. In PF70, the 1995-W Silver Eagle can fetch more than $15,000.

In 2006 the United States mint officially announced plans for an American Eagle Commemorative set. Three sets containing between two and three coins would be issued. The sets included the proof version of the Eagle, a mint state mint marked version of the Eagle and for the first time a "reverse proof" Eagle. The sets were broken down into a three-piece gold set containing one of each, a three-piece silver set containing one of each and a two-piece gold and silver set containing one of each mint state mint marked coin.

The significance of the sets is in their unique coin offerings. For the first time, the United States is purposely issuing mint state Eagles bearing the West Point mint mark. In 1999, the United States accidentally minted and released 1/10 ounce and 1/4 ounce gold Eagles using unfinished Proof Dies containing the W mint mark. These coins can bring several hundred to thousands of dollars depending on condition. However these coins were accidentally issued and only appeared on those two denominations. The anniversary sets contain a Silver Eagle with a West Point mint mark with a mintage of 280,000 and a Gold Eagle with a West Point mint mark with a mintage of 30,000.

Even more unique is the "reverse proof" Eagle. Never before has the United States minted a "reverse proof." Much like the bullion coins of Australia and other countries, the coin will feature a unique finish with a brilliant relief and frosted field. With a mintage of 250,000 for the silver and 10,000 for the gold, the coins will be not only be popular but in extremely short supply compared to other recent mint issues.

The final coin will be the standard proof version of the coin. While it may not be as unique as the other coins in the set, it might prove to be the rarest coin the sets have to offer. The sets come unsealed from the United States mint and therefore it is a requirement of NGC that sets submitted for grading should be sent in the unopened mint shipping box for the proof coin to receive the designation of 20th Anniversary Set. As a result, as collectors and dealers receive their orders from the mint and open the packaging to inspect and admire their coins, they will lose the designation for the coin which will make it difficult to find a designated proof issue coin. For those who were willing to get the designation by not opening the package, they may have a coin much like the Millennium Silver Eagle, which can only be designated Millennium Set when received intact making it a key for the series. With only 250,000 Silver and 10,000 Gold minted, getting a certified proof 20th Anniversary coin could be very tough depending on whether or not people open the sets.

The United State Mint prevented dealers, investors, speculators and others from obtaining too many of these sets by limiting it to ten of each set per person. The small mintage and high price of sets, $2,610 for the three-piece gold, $850 for the two-piece and $100 for the three-piece silver, limited many from obtaining large quantities. Regardless, the three piece gold set sold out within the day thus adding to the allure of the set.

Ultimately, it will be up to the market and collectors to see how popular and expensive these sets will eventually become. With such a small mintage and high demand they could eventually prove to be a classical rarity and key for the eagle sets.