US Coins

Not all are thrilled with special silver Eagle edge

The edge inscription on the Proof 2016-W American Eagle silver dollar denoting the 30th anniversary of the bullion coin is getting mixed reviews.

Some collectors took to the Collectors Universe and Numismatic Guaranty Corp. online message boards to express their dissatisfaction with the appearance of the edge inscription. Coin World also received some direct email from collectors who believed the 30th anniversary marking on the American Eagle silver coin could have been rendered differently.

30th Anniversary silver Eagle edge lettering   Louis Golino: Silver American Eagle deserves more for 30th anniversary: "Having seen the coins in hand, I and every other collector I know who has also seen them is underwhelmed by the edge lettering with many using that same word to describe their reaction."

On the other hand, U.S. Mint officials indicate the bureau has received a number of positive comments from customers pleased with the product, stating, “In regards to the customer comments about the quality of the edge lettering, while we are disappointed to hear from our customers regarding their reaction to the edge lettering on the 2016 American Eagle Proof Coins, we have also heard many comments from customers who are very pleased with the quality of the coins,” according to a U.S. Mint statement released Sept. 27. 

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“Those customers who are unhappy with the product are free to return them in accordance with our long-standing return policy,” the Mint added.

The Proof 2016-W American Eagle 30th Anniversary silver dollar went on sale at noon ET Sept. 16 at $53.95 per coin, with no product or household ordering limits. As of 11:30 a.m. ET Sept. 28, the U.S. Mint recorded sales of 376,154 coins. The sales total includes orders placed through the Mint’s Enrollment Program, which allows customers to subscribe to an annual product before the product officially goes on sale.

Recognition of the 30th anniversary of the American Eagle silver dollar was mandated under provisions of legislation passed and signed into law in December 2015 requiring edge lettering on all 2016 silver American Eagles except the bullion version, which retains the traditional reeded edge.

The Mint developed a three-piece, segmented collar featuring 30TH ANNIVERSARY on one segment aligned with the date on the obverse, with the remaining two segments plain.

The 1-ounce .999 fine silver planchets receive three strikes from the obverse and reverse dies oriented for striking vertically. Die life is approximately 2,000 coins per die, according to U.S. Mint officials, but dies are not necessarily removed in pairs should one become damaged, worn or otherwise comprised for further production.

The approximate die life of a collar used to incuse the mandated edge lettering is 19,000 coins, according to U.S. Mint officials.

Collector comments

Collector Bil Croxton reported to Coin World Sept. 27 that he had received Sept. 24 the two Proof American Eagle silver dollars he had ordered.

“The Proof aspects of both coins was magnificent,” Croxton wrote in his email. “Then I went to the edges looking for the ‘30th Anniversary’ engraving. Used a 7X and 10X loupe, and both coins had engraving that looked very amateurish, as if the Mint had never done this type of job before.” (See his full comments in the Oct. 17 print issue of Coin World, on the Letters to the Editor page.)

Collector Ned Zaglio wrote: “I recently received the above 1 ounce silver proof coin and noticed that the edge lettering is barely legible. I’m a bit curious as to whether any of your Coin World subscribers have noticed the same thing once they received the coins and have written in to your publication regarding this issue.

From the NGC online forum:

“Received some today [Sept. 24] from the U.S. Mint. The strike on the incuse looks weak, otherwise nice coin.”

“I just received my proof AE. The edge lettering looks junky. I am not sure why they would not just put a 30th in the field. Kind of like the Canadian privy marks on coins.”

“It would have been much better if they had issued a regular proof with the reeded edge and then this one in a limited quantity for the 30th anniversary.”

Max Spiegel, vice president of sales and marketing for Certified Collectibles Group, NGC’s parent company, said Sept. 27 that the grading service had not received any submissions as yet with defective edge lettering.

“We have not observed any noteworthy variations in the edge lettering on these coins and have not observed anything with regards to the lettering that would impact the coin’s grade,” Spiegel said.

This comment was posted on the Collectors Universe message boards: “I am unimpressed by the edge lettering. The collar is obviously in three pieces and fixed, where two pieces meet at the 12 o’clock position to create a visible line on the edge of the coin, then another line 1/3 of the way around the coin in either direction. The ‘30th ANNIVERSARY’ is on the bottom third of the collar, readable as you look at the obverse. It might look better in a different type of capsule. Might even look better in a plain airtite, which would let you see the edge better than the mint’s capsule. ... ”

Edge device challenges

Executing edge lettering for the Proof 2016-W American Eagle silver dollar is not the only challenge Mint technicians have faced with special edge devices for U.S. coins over the past more than two decades.

The most recent past challenge was with the incuse edge device for the Presidential dollars beginning in 2007 and subsequently the Native American dollars in 2009.

Placement of the incuse date, Mint mark, E PLURIBUS UNUM and IN GOD WE TRUST (the latter motto was moved to the obverse starting in 2009) on the Presidential dollars for circulation is executed after coins are struck. 

In 2007, the coins were struck and then manually transported to the edge lettering equipment, which was not yet integrated into the production line at the Mint’s production facilities. The remote placement of the equipment and the novelty of an extra production step resulted in large numbers of the 2007 George Washington dollars being accidentally transported directly to the counting and bagging equipment, thus bypassing the edge inscription station. Tens of thousands of the resultant plain edge coins were released into circulation. Mint officials took new precautions to prevent similar errors from occurring again, and while some plain edge coins have been issued since the Washington coins, the numbers released have been much smaller.

Beginning in 2008, the edge lettering equipment was integrated as the final step of production on the coin press line, further reducing the number of plain edge coins entering circulation.

Application of the edge inscription for Uncirculated Mint set dollar coins is similar, with the edge inscription applied after striking. 

Native American dollars in circulation and Uncirculated Mint set quality are produced in the same way.

In contrast, Proof Presidential and Native American dollars have the edge inscription imparted from a three-piece segmented collar, the same technique chosen for the edge of the Proof 2016-W American Eagle silver dollar.

Possibly the most unique obstacle presented to Mint production personnel was with production of the 1992-D Olympic Baseball silver dollar. Technicians at the Denver Mint were tasked with executing an edge inscription after the coin was already struck with a reeded edge collar. And application of the edge lettering had to be done without crushing the reeded edge.

20th century ingenuity was put into motion with the construction of equipment resembling a Castaing machine, a piece of equipment the Mint used in the 18th and 19th centuries to impart edge inscriptions and ornamentation as a means to combat counterfeiting and edge clipping of precious metals coins.

For the 1992-D Olympic silver dollar, after a coin was struck, the coin was inserted into a slot from which gravity would carry the coin to where it would be gripped at the entry point between two flat edge dies.

Each flat die, the upper moving and the lower stationary, bore half of the edge device. Once activated, the upper mechanism would roll the struck coin between the two flat edge dies, imparting twice each, alternately inverted, XXV OLYMPIAD followed by a horizontal squiggly line.

The Denver Mint produced 187,552 of the Uncirculated 1992-D Olympic silver dollars, with each coin inserted one by one manually into the equipment to receive the edge lettering and ornamentation over the reeded edge. 

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