Precious Metals

Millions of silver Eagles struck outside West Point

Based on the serial number on the 500-coin monster box, the 2017 American Eagle silver bullion dollar coin illustrated definitely was produced at the West Point Mint.

Original images courtesy of Numismatic Guaranty Corp.

This article comes from our April 17, 2017, weekly issue of Coin World. Want to get all of our content, including special magazine exclusives? Subscribe today!

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 demand requires. 

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.

When Coin 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.

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