Another Silver Eagle Dollar “Instant Rarity?”

October 22, 2020


By Patrick A. Heller

The U.S. Mint has issued some “Instant Rarities” over the years in the U.S. silver Eagle dollar series that began in 1986.

  • For the 10th Anniversary of the series, the Mint produced a 1995 West Point Mint Proof silver Eagle dollar with a mintage of just 30,125 coins, by far the scarcest of the proof issues thus far. This coin catalogs in the 2021 edition of A Guidebook Of United States Coins, commonly called the “Red Book,”at $3,500.
  • The regular issue Uncirculated 1996 silver Eagle dollar has the lowest mintage of the bullion issues at 3,603,386. The “Red Book”lists this issue at $65 (versus $24-40 for every other year of bullion issues).
  • The first two Reverse Proof silver Eagle dollars were issued in 2006 and 2011, with mintages of 248,875 and 99,882 respectively. These are cataloged in the Red Book” at $160 and $255.
  • The U.S. Mint issued its first Burnished Uncirculated W-Mint silver Eagle dollar in 2006, mintage 468,020, which catalogs for $75.
  • In 2011, the Mint issued its only Burnished Uncirculated S-Mint silver Eagle dollar with a mintage of 99,882, which is listed in the “Red Book” at $225.
  • In 2013, the Mint issued an Enhanced Uncirculated silver Eagle dollar with a mintage of 281,310 that now lists in the “Red Book” at $90.
  • Last year, the U.S. Mint issued its first Enhanced Reverse Proof silver Eagle dollar, with a mintage limit of 30,000 coins. The “Red Book”catalogs this coin at $1,250.

In mid-2021, the U.S. Mint will replace the current reverse designs gold and silver American Eagles with new versions that will be used from then on.

We have been advised by one of the Mint’s Authorized Purchasers that the best guess when the new reverse designs will debut is in the second quarter of 2021.  The 2021 gold and silver Eagles struck before then will continue to bear the current reverse designs.

With two different reverses on the 2021 gold and silver American Eagles, is it possible that the ones struck for fewer months, most likely the ones with the current reverse, will have significantly low mintages?

One reason that may occur is that the U.S. Mint has already sold the greatest number of bullion-priced silver Eagle dollars in 2020 than in any full year since 2016.  As of early this week, it had sold 23,596,500 of them (which is 58.5 percent more than sold in all of 2019).  That is an average of more than 2.4 million coins per month.  Because of continuing high demand for 2020 silver Eagles, it is possible that the Mint may continue production closer to the end of this year than in years past before it switches production to 2021-dated coins.

But, even if the Mint only strikes the “Old Reverse” 2021 silver Eagle dollars for three months, production averages this year indicates that could be a mintage of at least 7 million coins. To put that in perspective, in 10 different years, mintages of bullion silver Eagles were below 6 million pieces. As a consequence, I don’t expect either version of 2021-dated silver Eagle dollars to be recognized for unusual rarity.

Still, no one can be sure what will transpire in the future. Maybe there will be production disruptions of greater length than affected the West Point Mint thus far in 2020. Or maybe the coins with the new reverses will be released earlier than now anticipated.

So, some collectors may consider speculating by purchasing some of the initial 2021-dated silver Eagles with the current reverse. If doing so, I caution you to not pay much, if any, premium for 2020-dated or earlier silver Eagles. When I checked with several national bullion retailers last Friday, they were offering 500-coin boxes of 2020-dated silver Eagles at prices ranging from $4.50 to $5.50 per coin above the ask silver spot price.

I would not be surprised to see marketing campaigns making a big deal of the change in the reverse designs. They might easily over-hype the rarity of the “Old Reverse” 2021-dated silver Eagle dollars to justify a selling price much higher than I would expect to be sustained. Still, if such marketing does create a temporary premium for these coins, that could be a good time to sell your coins.

Another consideration on whether to acquire some first issue 2021 silver Eagles is whether the spot price of silver might rise next year. I suspect, but obviously cannot guarantee, that silver’s price in 2021 will be higher than current levels. However, if you are only thinking to purchase silver Eagles as a way to own bullion-priced silver, I have to warn you that they are one of the higher premium options. If your main interest is owning bullion-priced physical silver, there are alternatives such as U.S. 90 percent silver coins where you can acquire more ounces of silver for the same cash outlay.

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