Collectors Likely to Welcome Changes from New Silver Provisions
While the language is rather open-ended, in practice it is likely to mean that these silver coins will in the future be made of 99.9% pure silver with no alloys, which is both the world standard and has been the purity of American Silver Eagles since they began in 1986.
There are several reasons why this is likely. First, it is expensive and counterproductive to use alloys when making silver coins. It also complicates the process of procuring silver planchets, which has been an issue since 2008. It is much easier to obtain planchets made of pure silver.
The reason for using copper alloy in silver coinage that was issued through 1964 was to make it more durable so that the coins would circulate longer and fewer coins would need to be issued over time. Pure silver is much softer and prone to being damaged.
In addition, the U.S. Mint has been interested in switching the silver content of commemoratives and the coins in proof sets for years, and it has asked buyers about this issue in several surveys. The response tended to be positive to the idea of using pure silver.
If things do end up proceeding in this manner, I believe collectors will welcome the change, especially if it allows the Mint to reduce the retail price of these products, which is possible.
The other reason the new provisions are important is the language calling for American Silver Eagles issued in 2016 to have smoother rather than reeded edges and that they bear incused edge inscriptions designating the coins as 30th anniversary issues.
I think most collectors will welcome this too as it will make the 2016 coins one-year type issues, and that may boost demand even higher than the record-breaking level of sales seen in 2015, which is headed for well over 45 million coins sold.
Some collectors and numismatic writers have argued that anniversary products are basically hype simply designed to sell more coins.
Well, in addition to the fact that the Mint is supposed to try to sell more coins, the fact is that collectors tend to like anniversary products, which is why they sell well.
Of course, most eagle buyers are hoping for and expecting more than incused edge lettering to mark the 30th anniversary. The most popular idea as expressed in Mint surveys and in comments in the blogosphere is for the issuance of the first high or ultra-high relief Silver Eagle either by itself or as part of a special 30th anniversary set.
2016 is also the 30th anniversary of the American Gold Eagle, and I anticipate the Mint will do something special for that as well.
Next year is going to be a good one for eagle enthusiasts.