This article comes from our April 17, 2017, weekly issue
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Nearly 17 million American Eagle silver bullion coins were struck
dated 2014 through 2017 at the Philadelphia and San Francisco Mints,
augmenting the West Point Mint’s output of nearly 108 million coins in
that time period.
Details of the production were obtained by Coin World through a Freedom of Information Act request after U.S. Mint officials
initially balked at releasing the information.
The West Point Mint is the primary location for bullion coin
production, but the other two facilities are brought into service for
ancillary production of the American Eagle silver bullion coins when
The bulk of production at the Philadelphia and San Francisco Mints
occurred during transitions to new calendar years, as the three
facilities cooperated to ensure a sizeable inventory would be
available for purchase in January of each year.
World learned that multiple facilities had struck the 2017
American Eagle silver bullion coins, it requested specific mintages,
broken down by Mint facility, from U.S. Mint officials. When the Mint
refused to provide the requested information, Coin World filed
a FOIA request on Feb. 6, 2017. FOIA gives the public, including news
media, the right to access information from the federal government
that may have been withheld improperly.
Coin World’s FOIA request sought a breakdown by Mint of
American Eagle silver bullion coin production dated 2014 through 2017.
The production breakdown the U.S. Mint supplied in its March 20 FOIA
response letter, by date and by facility, from 2014 to 2017, follows:
➤ West Point Mint: 2014 — 23,450,000 coins; 2015 — 46,920,500 coins;
2016 — 31,900,000 coins; 2017 — 5,425,000 coins(as of the March 20
mailing of the FOIA response letter from the U.S. Mint).
➤ Philadelphia Mint: 2014 — 0 coins; 2015 — 79,640 coins; 2016 —
1,151,500 coins; 2017 — 1,000,000 coins.
➤ San Francisco Mint: 2014 — 7,025,000 coins; 2015 — 0 coins; 2016 —
4,650,000 coins; 2017 — 3,000,000 coins.
Identifying the coins
All of the American Eagle silver bullion coins are without Mint
marks and, in theory, should be indistinguishable from each other.
However, that has not stopped the marketplace from attempting to
identify a particular coin’s Mint facility of origin. One firm’s
speculation in this area prompted the questions that the Mint answered
in response to Coin World’s FOIA filing.
While grading and encapsulating 2017 American Eagle silver bullion
coins in January, officials at Numismatic Guaranty Corp. noted a pattern in the
serial numbers on 500-coin boxes of tubed coins that suggested the
possibility of more than one Mint facility being responsible for the production.
NGC officials also speculated that variations in the quality of
coins also reflected which facility produced the coins.
In reaction to NGC’s observations, Coin World asked the Mint,
not only whether production had occurred at more than one facility,
but also for an explanation of the serial numbers on the boxes. The
Mint’s decision to not provide answers to our questions prompted the
Feb. 6 FOIA filing.
NGC’s speculation on the box numbering system was confirmed by the
March 20 written response from the U.S. Mint Coin World
received by mail.
All 500-coin boxes from the West Point Mint were marked with various
six-digit numbers starting with 1, 2 or 3.
The numbering system for coins struck at the Philadelphia Mint
followed two standards: For 2015 bullion coins, box serial numbers
were various five-digit numbers starting with 1. For 2016 and 2017
bullion, the box serial numbers were six-digit numbers starting with 5.
For 2014 American Eagle silver bullion coins struck at the San
Francisco Mint, red banding was used on the boxes to differentiate
where they were produced. For 2016 and 2017 coins, the serial numbers
marked on each box were various six-digit numbers starting with 4.
Until fairly recently, the U.S. Mint used either bands color-coded
for each facility or, for coins from the West Point Mint, bands
bearing the facility’s name. During the last 12 months, the U.S. Mint
switched to using generic straps to secure the lids on the 500-coin
boxes without differentiating the origin of the coins, other than by
the serial number system.
Coins struck at the Philadelphia and San Francisco Mints were
shipped in the generic strapped boxes to West Point and mixed in with
boxes of West Point-struck coins for eventual pick-up by authorized purchasers.
Coin World FOIA Request 1/2 by Joe ODonnell on Scribd
Coin World FOIA Request 2/2 by Joe ODonnell on Scribd