Making Moderns column from Dec. 14, 2015, issue of Coin World:
As early as March of this year, Coin World was predicting
that the 2015 American Eagle silver bullion coins would reach record
production levels, a bullish forecast given that in 2014 an all-time
high of 44 million coins were minted. Now, it seems likely that those
predictions will come to pass.
Twenty years ago, the story was very different. From 1994 to 1998,
fewer than 5 million silver American Eagles were struck each year. The
nadir of production occurred in 1996, when only 3.6 million American
Eagle silver bullion coins were struck. Already six times this year,
monthly sales totals have surpassed this figure!
American Eagle silver bullion coins are struck to order. Today, the
Mint struggles to acquire enough silver planchets to meet demand,
rationing the distribution of coins during brief allocation periods.
In the mid-1990s, demand was simply very limited. What accounts for
the change and what does this mean for collectors?
When the first silver American Eagles hit the market in 1986, there
was pent-up demand for an American-made silver bullion coin. In early
1987, the price of silver was $5.50 per ounce, but silver American
Eagles traded for over $10 in the market, or a premium over silver
spot prices of nearly $5. Then silver spiked, hitting a high of $9.44
per ounce in early 1987. Silver American Eagles routinely traded for
more than $14 each.
From that high, steadily and year after year, the value of silver
slid. Concurrently, as cumulative production grew, the premiums for
silver American Eagles shrank, first to $2 per coin in 1988 and from
$1.25 to $1.50 per coin by 1991, when silver was trading for $4 per
ounce. There silver languished. It would not reach even the $6 mark
until December of 1997.
Changes in the value of silver and the decrease in the American
Eagle silver bullion coin’s premium to spot prices meant one important
thing. Everyone who bought the silver coins during their first five
years of production had either already lost money or was sitting on a
Against that backdrop we have the low mintage 1996 American Eagle
silver bullion coin. Nobody wanted these coins. In January 1996, the
Mint sold just 30,000 silver American Eagles!
Today, the 1996 silver American Eagle is very popular. Uncertified
coins can be found for $80, and for less with some searching, but
always for more than three times current spot prices. Because this
coin is also prone to develop spots, certified Mint State 69 coins
trade for as much as $150, the highest of any bullion issue in the series.