Precious Metals

Three years that haunt silver Eagle collectors

The Proof 1995-W American Eagle silver coin was only available in the 10th anniversary five-coin set, which included Proof $5, $10, $25 and $50 gold American Eagles. But many could not afford the $999 price tag.

Original images courtesy of Heritage Auctions and iStock/Getty Images.

Silver American Eagles are among the most collected coins in the home hobbyist portfolio.

The design is classic, patterned after Adolph A. Weinman’s Walking Liberty half dollar obverse with a fetching reverse design by U.S. Mint Chief Engraver John Mercanti.

Proof silver American Eagles are especially beautiful. Both sides have ample fields and stunning devices. I used to collect Proof silver American Eagles and still collect Uncirculated ones.

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The 1995 10th Anniversary five-coin set featured a silver American Eagle. But hobbyists had to buy the four gold coins (Proof $5, $10, $25 and $50 gold American Eagles) in the set, at $999, to secure the Proof American Eagle silver coin as a “bonus.”

Because many folks (including me) could not afford the set, we lost out on the chance to buy the bonus coin. Worse, it was the first year that the “W” Mint mark appeared in the silver series. So we also coveted that seemingly unobtainable Mint mark.

For many, the Proof 1995-W silver American Eagle was a series stopper. A mere 30,125 of those sets were sold, making the coin especially attractive. Because of reported mishandling, often by collectors extracting the coin from sets, most of the bonus American Eagles failed to make the highest grade of Proof 70.

Last year GreatCollections sold a PCGS Proof 70 Deep Cameo 1995-W silver American Eagle for $86,654.70. At the time, only eight coins had been assigned that perfect grade by the company. At this writing, the total is 23. (Proof 69 Deep Cameo silver American Eagles sell for about $4,000 each.)

In 2009 another controversy arose. The U.S. Mint decided not to produce the Proof 2009 silver American Eagle.

This was a blow to hobbyists who at the time were collecting Proof American Eagles in part for Mint marks (1986 to 1992, San Francisco, S Mint mark; 1993 to 2000, Philadelphia, P; 2001 to 2008, W Mint mark).

So this became a second “hole” in the Proof album.

The outcry was so great that Daniel Carr, owner of a private mint, helped satisfy demand by over-striking non-Proof 2009 bullion silver American Eagles (with no Mint marks), creating a Proof-like appearance, and using a “DC” Mint mark that also stood for the initials of his name. Carr has not produced any more since 2010.

Another hobbyist issue arose in 2011 with the release of the silver American Eagle 25th Anniversary set. The maximum mintage was 100,000. The sets sold out in less than five hours. I was not able to use the online ordering system to secure a set. 

I still do not have one.

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