By Tony Davis
It’s a common misconception in the coin industry that all
American silver eagles were created equal.
While no bullion silver eagles have a mintage of less than 3.5 million
coins, and none of the proof American silver eagles have a mintage of less than
370,000 coins (with the exception of burnished, reverse proof and special
edition silver eagles), some of these coins can sell at substantial multiples over
the silver value of the coins. In this piece, we’re going to highlight some
bullion and proof American silver eagles that are bought and sold at an
additional premium over common date silver eagles primarily as a result of
their mintage and demand in the current marketplace.
Bullion Silver Eagles
Bullion silver eagles refer to those coins that are primarily bought and sold for their silver content. These are the coins that are typically referred to when monthly and annual silver eagle sales are reported, such as the record-breaking year for American silver eagles in 2013. In general, back date American silver eagles (those minted in 1999 and earlier) tend to be in higher demand, but the three years listed below lead the pack as far as silver eagle bullion coins go:
- 1986 – While nearly 5.4 million silver eagles were minted in 1986, which is comparable to the mintage of many other silver eagles produced in the 80s and 90s, 1986 was the inaugural year of the American silver eagle, which makes these coins in especially high demand. Expect to pay a premium in the range of $15 or more for these coins. Sealed boxes of 1986 silver eagles sell for even more.
- 1994 – 1994 marks the first year that American silver eagles were produced in quantities of less than 5 million coins. The exact mintage was 4,227,319 coins, which was nearly 800,000 less than the lowest mintage produced prior to this time. As with the 1986 American silver eagles, these coins sell at a premium, but tend to be a bit higher than the premium charged for 1986 American silver eagles, $18 or more. Considering that the price of silver at the time of this writing is under $19 an ounce, this is approximately a 100 percent premium over the spot price of silver.
- 1996 – 1996 marked the first and only year where the mintage of bullion silver eagles was less than 4 million coins. The exact number of 1996 silver eagles produced was 3.6 million. If your American silver eagle album is missing this coin, expect to pay $60 or more for a 1996 silver eagle in brilliant uncirculated condition. Certified 1996 silver eagles tend to sell for more, especially MS70 versions, which upward of $100!
Proof Silver Eagles
While the most expensive bullion silver eagles sell at prices of $60 or more, the starting price for many proof silver eagles is approximately $60. Proof silver eagles are primarily produced for coin collectors and are commonly referred to as numismatic coins. Not only is the mintage relatively low for these coins (typically 1 million coins or less), they’re produced with a special die that creates a mirror-like finish background and a frosted foreground. Much like bullion silver eagles, proof silver eagles minted in 1999 and earlier tend to sell at higher prices than those produced in 2000 or later, but there are two proof silver eagles, in particular, that are in extremely high demand and sell for the highest premiums, which we’ll address in further detail below:
- 1993 – While not the first proof silver eagle to have a production run of less than 500,000, the mintage of 1993 proof silver eagles was nearly 93,000 less than the next closest mintage, at a total mintage of just shy of 406,000 coins. The price of these coins is typically $90 or more, which is nearly five times the current spot price of silver! As is the case with all proof silver eagles, it’s important to have the original government paperwork, including a box in relatively good condition, to maximize the value of your coin.
- 1994 – A total of 372,168 proof silver eagles were produced in 1994, making it the lowest minted proof silver eagle coin other than special edition and reverse proof coins. The number of coins produced in 1994 was approximately 34,000 less than in 1993, so you would expect for the price to be comparable to 1993 coins. Wrong! The price of 1994 proof silver eagles begins at $170, which is nine times the current price of silver. These coins are incredibly difficult to find due to high collector demand, so you should expect to pay a hefty premium to add one to your collection.
In conclusion, we’ve highlighted a total of five bullion and proof American silver eagle coins that sell at higher premiums than their counterparts. As discussed above, the 1996 silver bullion eagle and 1994 proof silver eagle are in the highest demand, which means that you’re going to have to dig a little deeper in your wallet for these coins. Remember that the above prices and premiums are for brilliant uncirculated bullion coins and proof silver eagles with the original government paperwork and a clean box. Be sure to thoroughly inspect any coins for blemishes prior to making a purchase.