Numismatist Michael “Miles” Standish believes that the bullion
version of the American Eagle silver dollar is the most collected U.S.
silver dollar, even moreso than Morgan dollars.
During an April 27 educational forum sponsored by the Industry Council
for Tangible Assets and held in conjunction with the Central States
Numismatic Society 78th Anniversary Convention in Schaumburg,
Ill., Standish noted the U.S. Mint has sold between 400 million and
500 million of the American Eagle bullion silver coins since their
introduction in 1986. (While that coin’s total is below that of the
Morgan dollar (approximately 656.9 million were struck), the American
Eagles are still being produced.)
Standish is currently vice president of Numismatic Guaranty Corp.
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The American Eagle silver dollars were produced, initially, as a
means to profitably reduce the millions of ounces of silver bullion in
the U.S. Mint's strategic minerals stockpile. Since the stockpile’s
depletion, the U.S. Mint now purchases domestically mined silver on
the open market.
The American Eagle silver bullion coin — produced annually from 1986
to date — has been produced more years than the Morgan silver dollar,
too, Standish noted. The Morgan dollar was produced from 1878 through
1904, and again in 1921.
The American Eagle silver dollar has been a significant revenue
generator for the U.S. Mint, Standish added.
Standish said that when John M. Mercanti, the former U.S. Mint
sculptor-engraver who designed the reverse of the American Eagle,
retired in 2010, Mercanti contemplated penning his memoirs spanning a
40-year career with the nation’s coin bureau.
Standish said he suggested to Mercanti that, because of the
popularity of the American Eagle silver bullion coin bearing
Mercanti’s Heraldic Eagle reverse design, the artist should consider
collaborating with him on producing a reference on the series. The
resulting book, American Silver Eagles: A Guide to the U.S. Bullion
Coin Program, is now in its third edition, with a fourth edition
being prepared. Standish said the reference has generated significant
collector interest in the silver American Eagle series.
The book concentrates primarily on the American Eagle, but also
addresses gold and platinum American Eagles, American Buffalo gold
bullion coins, America the Beautiful 5-ounce silver quarter dollars,
and American Arts Gold Medallions, plus coin design development and
production, and product options.
Standish, who began his numismatic career with ANACS in the early 1980s before
joining Professional Coin Grading
Service for an extended period, introduced at PCGS and carried
over to NGC a signature label initiative. Celebrities, sports figures
and numismatic dignitaries like Mercanti autograph grading labels for
coins associated with each individual. Mercanti’s signature on grading
labels has been encapsulated more times, specifically for silver
American Eagles, than any of the other signatures.
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This week, we find an 1804 dollar in a book two years before any of
the coins were struck, a reader questions
For the book, Standish secured a message for the foreword from
Michael Reagan, the son of President Ronald Reagan. President Reagan
in 1985 signed into law the legislation authorizing the American Eagle
With the introduction at PCGS of his trademarked “First Strike”
program, more collectors were drawn to the American Eagle silver
dollars, Standish said. The First Strike program involves the grading
and encapsulation of bullion coins that are shipped within the first
30 days of sales.
Standish said the quality of the luster on American Eagle
silver bullion coins differs among coins struck at the West Point, San
Francisco and Philadelphia Mints. He also identified production
problems in some years, mentioning the appearance of milk spots, which
he blames on incomplete removal of lubricating materials, used to keep
planchets from sticking to the dies during production, combined with
improper drying afterward.