More Mint State Eagles, go beyond the basic coin set

Making Moderns column from the April 14, 2014 issue of Coin World
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Published : 03/28/14
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The Feb. 10 column focused on building a basic set of Mint State silver American Eagles comprising 35 coins in all. That set includes 28 bullion issues without Mint marks, plus seven “Burnished” Uncirculated issues with Mint marks — six from the West Point Mint and one from the San Francisco Mint. The advanced collector, however, may look beyond these coins to include a few more.

The first candidate for inclusion is the 2008-W American Eagle, Reverse of 2007 silver dollar. In 2008, the Mint introduced a modified hub that involved a subtle reworking of the design. According to the Mint, changes were made to accommodate new digital engraving technology. The most notably updated feature was the font on the reverse legends; it was flattened and lost its variable width strokes. Additionally, a tail was added to the lower right terminus of the U, making it identifiable from the prior reverse style.

Soon after collectors received their 2008-W silver American Eagles from the Mint, they reported finding 2008 coins with the Reverse of 2007. A small number of dies leftover from the prior year were used to produce coins, creating this transitional mule. It’s now known that approximately 47,000 coins were struck. Since their initial release, this coin has risen steadily in value. Today, examples graded MS-69 are worth nearly $600, and MS-70 can trade for up to $1,000.

For at least a decade, from 2001 to 2010, all American Eagle silver bullion coins were minted at the West Point Mint. Due to increased demand, starting in 2011, the San Francisco Mint also struck silver American Eagles. Although issued without Mint mark and visually indistinguishable, some collectors like to acquire examples of coins struck at both Mints.

Bullion silver American Eagles are sold to authorized distributors in green plastic boxes of 500 coins, commonly called “monster boxes.” The boxes are sealed shut with straps emblazoned with their Mint of origin. Although some variation exists in strap types, coins from the West Point facility are sealed with white straps that read WEST POINT MINT in blue ink. Coins from the San Francisco Mint are sealed with yellow straps reading U.S. MINT — SAN FRANCISCO in black ink.

Once a coin is removed from a monster box, there is no way to know which Mint it came from without a method to preserve its provenance. Fortunately, third-party grading services perform this service. When they receive coins in sealed, strapped, monster boxes, they can label coins accordingly.

Today, it’s possible to buy a silver American Eagle described as a 2011-(W) or 2011-(S). Parentheses are used to indicate a Mint of origin when the Mint mark does not appear on the coin. Coins from both Mints for all four years are valued similarly.

With the 2008-W American Eagle, Reverse of 2007 coin and two bullion coins from each Mint, 2011 to date, the total number of silver American Eagles in the Mint State set now rises by five coins, to 40.

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