Precious Metals

Author examines popularity of silver American Eagles

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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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 coin programs.

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.

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