Precious Metals

Market analysts react to U.S. Mint’s American Eagle redesign efforts

The U.S. Mint’s decision to redesign the reverses of the American Eagle gold and silver bullion coins beginning in 2021 and adding security features to combat counterfeiting is drawing a mix of reactions from the numismatic community. 

“Change is good and the Mint is doing it all for the right reasons,” says Mike DiRienzo, executive director at The Silver Institute, an association for the silver trade. “The Mint is doing it all for the right issues. Counterfeiting has become the number one problem.”

The gold and silver American Eagles are both the top-selling bullion coins worldwide for the precious metal they contain.

“They’ll still be number one after the changes,” DiRienzo said. “The Mint won’t miss a beat. I expect demand will be quite high when they get rolled. I think  new designs will be welcomed in the marketplace.”

U.S. Mint Sculptor-Engraver John Mercanti’s Heraldic Eagle reverse on the American Eagle silver coin has been coupled since 1986 with sculptor Adolph A. Weinman’s Walking Liberty obverse from the early 20th century half dollar. The obverse is not expected to be changed.

The Family of Eagles motif designed by Texas sculptor Miley Busiek (now Frost) for the reverse of the American Eagle gold coin has also been in use since 1986, paired with the striding Liberty from sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ gold $20 double eagle. The theme of the gold American Eagle reverse design is mandated under provisions of the Gold Bullion Coin Act of 1985 that authorized the series. It has not been specified, but legislation will likely be needed to supplant the Family of Eagles design.

The 1985 act authorizing the American Eagle silver coin has no design mandate like that for the gold coins.

Mike Fuljenz of Universal Coin and Bullion, a secondary market distributor for U.S. and world bullion coins, applauds Mint Director David J. Ryder’s initiative to bring anti-counterfeiting technology to American Eagle bullion coin production.

“The U.S. Mint is behind other mints in this respect,” Fuljenz said. “I think new designs will bring new excitement. It will enhance collecting. Building layers of protection to fight counterfeiting is necessary.”

Could the introduction of new designs generate a two-tiered marketplace split between the older coins and those with the new designs?

Fuljenz says he doesn’t anticipate a two-tier pricing system to develop for American Eagles bullion coins from 2020 and earlier and those starting in 2021 with new reverses and added security technology.

Fuljenz said certain dates already carry premiums well above bullion values. And premiums fluctuate annually when the next year’s issues are released. He says the premium usually drop as the year progresses and more coins enter the market.

Ralph Mizrahi, chief marketing officer for Manfra Tordella & Brookes Inc., one of the U.S. Mint’s authorized purchasers of bullion coins, said the firm believes the Mint’s strategy will be a boost to slumping commerce.

“We think in the short to medium term, the new design could somewhat invigorate slumping sales of the last few years” Mizrahi said. “Investors will likely look to own the new designs and appreciate the new security features.”

Numismatic Guaranty Corp. Vice President Miles Standish, collaborator with Mercanti on the reference American Silver Eagles: A Guide to the U.S. Bullion Coin Program, believes the redesign will excite collectibility of the series for years to come.

“There are collectors for the entire series,” Standish said. “The collectibility will only get stronger from a redesign. And while one set will end, a new one will begin.”

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