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Mints and refineries around the globe are easily broken down into two categories: sovereign and private. The role of sovereign mints is, first and foremost, to product legal tender coinage and banknotes for economies around the globe. Among the most notable in this category are the United States Mint, Royal Canadian Mint, Royal Mint, and the Chinese Mint. These facilities fulfill a dual-purpose role however, producing not just circulation legal tender, but also commemorative coins and bullion products. Currently, the largest sovereign mint producer of coins in the world today is the United States Mint.
With passage of the Coinage Act of 1792, the United States Mint was formed to produce circulation coinage for the newly-formed United States of America. The US Mint has come a long way from the days of using horse, oxen, and men to power its coining presses. As of 2015, the United States Mint has the capacity to produce as many as 28 billion coins annually.
The modern United States Mint consists of four primary coining facilities: San Francisco Mint, Denver Mint, Philadelphia Mint, and West Point Mint. The gold depository is considered a part of the US Mint system, as is the Mint’s headquarters in Washington D.C. Former US Mint facilities include branch locations in Carson City, Nevada, Charlotte, North Carolina, Dahlonega, Georgia, New Orleans, Louisiana, Washington DC, and Manila, Philippines.
When it comes to the production of commemorative proof coins and bullion specimens, the West Point Mint facility is the chief production center for the US Mint. The West Point Mint was founded in 1937 near the US Military Academy in West Point, New York. The facility was initially known for its role in producing circulation pennies in the US (35 years) and for its role in storing gold.
Today, the West Point Mint continues in its role as a gold depository for the United States, but also plays a key role in the production of the American Eagle and Gold American Buffalo programs. Since 2001, all proof and uncirculated (2006) versions of the Silver American Eagle coin have been produced by the West Point Mint.
The Gold American Eagle’s proof version has been struck at West Point since its introduction in 1986 in the 1 oz weight. The fractional-weight Gold American Eagle coins shifted from their original production at the Philadelphia Mint in 1994 to the West Point Mint. The Gold American Buffalo and Platinum American Eagle proofs have always been struck by the West Point Mint.
The Philadelphia Mint maintains a major role in the production of some bullion coins in the programs mentioned above, but together with the Denver Mint is primarily responsible for the production of the nation’s circulation coins. The Philadelphia Mint served as the original home of fractional-weight Gold American Eagles and The San Francisco Mint was the original home of the Silver American Eagle.
Today, the San Francisco Mint has been pushed back into the production of bullion versions of the Silver American Eagle as a supplemental facility. The massive demand for Silver American Eagle coins from the United States Mint, with record sales of 47.3 million coins in 2015 alone, required another mint pick up the slack for the overworked coining presses at the West Point Mint.
Without question, the most popular coin series from the United States Mint is the Silver American Eagle. Produced on an annual basis since 1986, these coins are the official silver bullion product of the United States. The coin series consists of a 1 oz coin with a purity of .999 silver. Each coin has a face value of $1 (USD) and is struck in bullion, proof, and uncirculated versions.
Silver American Eagle coins feature design sets that combine America’s historic coin imagery and modern design features. On the obverse of every coin is Adolph A. Weinman’s 1916 design of Walking Liberty. Originally featured on the Walking Liberty Half Dollar, the image includes a full-length figure of Lady Liberty striding toward the setting sun, with the American flag draped over her shoulders. The reverse bears the heraldic eagle design from US Mint Chief Engraver John Mercanti, and is used exclusively on the American Silver Eagle.
Gold American Eagle Coins were authorized for production by the United States Congress with passage of the Gold Bullion Coin Act of 1985. Under the terms of legislation, the program was to contain four different weights in total (1 oz, ½ oz, ¼ oz, 1/10 oz) and include two different versions initially (bullion and proof). Congress set the face value for the coins as is standard practice with any legal tender issued by the United States Mint.
The first Gold American Eagle coins were produced and made available for purchase in 1986. The bullion coin program was immediately available with all four weights, while the proof version of the coin featured only a 1 oz coin in 1986. The proof program expanded to include the ½ oz weight in 1987, and the ¼ oz and 1/10 oz coins in 1988.
For the 20th anniversary of the American Eagle coin series, which includes the Silver Eagle, in 2006, the United States Mint introduced a new burnished version of the coin. The Burnished Gold American Eagle was introduced specifically for coin collectors. Although the United States Mint already had the proof version of the Gold Eagle available for collectors, the burnished version of the coin had a unique minting process that gave it enhanced value for those numismatists interested in the display and exhibition of visually brilliant coins.
Like its silver counterpart, a historic American coinage design was chosen for the Gold American Eagle. Augustus Saint-Gaudens was hand-picked by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1905 to help revitalize US gold coinage with a brilliant new design.
Saint-Gaudens crowning achievement was the Lady Liberty design that features Liberty in full-length figure, her hair and robe flowing freely in the breeze as she strides forward confidently from the nation’s capital. In her right and left hand are a torch for light, and an olive branch signifying peace; all the things she’ll need to guide the nation toward a peaceful, if unknown, future.
His original design was used on the $20 Gold Double Eagle coin. In circulation from 1907 to 1933, it is considered the finest design on the greatest coin in American history. Saint-Gaudens himself never lived to see his design come to fruition on an American coin though, passing away due to complications from illness just months before the coins were released in 1907.
In Saint-Gaudens’ original design, Liberty was featured striding forward with the US Capitol Building at her feet, the rays of the setting sun at her back, and 46 stars surrounding her along the coin’s rim. In 1912, Congress authorized the addition of two stars to his design to recognize the addition of New Mexico and Arizona to the Union. In order for the image to be used on the Gold American Eagle, two stars were added to recognize the post-World War II addition of Hawaii and Alaska to the Union.
The reverse side of the coin features a family of nesting bald eagles, and was designed by Miley Busiek. In the image, a male bald eagle returns to the nest with branches in its talons. In the nest, a female is depicted standing vigilant guard over the young hatchlings in the nest. Busiek’s design was created in 1986, and is used exclusively on the Gold American Eagle.
Each of the Platinum American Eagle coins contains .9995 fine platinum. The 1 oz coins in both versions have a face value of $100 (USD), which at the time was the highest face value on a US Mint bullion coin. The three fractional-weight coins in the Platinum American Eagle series included a ½ oz. option with a $50 (USD) face value, a ¼ oz option with a $25 (USD) face value, and a 1/10 oz coin with a $10 (USD) face value. Unlike the Gold Eagles, these coins have face values representative of their fractional weight compared to the 1 oz coin and its face value.
On top of offering these coins as bullion specimens, the United States Mint also struck a collectible Proof Platinum American Eagle coin. Although this fact alone does not make the coin a special product, the design elements of the Proof Platinum American Eagle do make it unique among the offerings from the United States Mint.
For the obverse side of the Platinum American Eagle coins, the design elements have remained the same since 1997. John Mercanti served as the Chief Engraver of the United States Mint from 1986 until 2010, when he retired. Mercanti is already well-known for creating the heraldic eagle used on the reverse of the Silver American Eagle, and developed a design for the obverse of the Platinum American Eagle that is referred to as Portraits of Liberty.
The obverse of each coin features a brilliant frontal image of the Statue of Liberty’s head. You can see her face up close as she gazes toward the future. This design includes engravings of “LIBERTY” above her head, the coin’s year of issue to the right, and the phrase “In God We Trust.”
When it comes to the bullion version of the coin, Thomas D. Rogers’ 1997 design remains the standard image. His “Eagle Soaring Above America” design was used on the reverse of both the bullion and proof version of the coin in 1997, but as the reverse design is rotated each year, his design has not continued on the reverse side of proof coins. The 1997 year of issue remains the only one in which bullion and proof Platinum American Eagle coins featured the same design.
Rogers was an engraver and sculptor with the United States Mint, and he created three designs in total for the Proof Platinum American Eagle, including the 1998 and 2001 issues of the coin. Throughout the 20 years of Proof Platinum American Eagle production history, the US Mint has introduced a total of four different reverse design themes. Each of the design themes featured new motifs, with different designs each year. In any given design series, the designs were different but the overall motif remained focus on a singular concept.
The United States Mint unveiled the Gold American Buffalo bullion coin in 2006, featuring the historic Buffalo Nickel design from James Earle Fraser and a gold content of .9999 fineness. The Gold American Buffalo was the first-ever coin from the US Mint to feature 24-karat gold, and in 2016 the mint celebrated the 10th anniversary of this highly coveted bullion coin.
James Earle Fraser was commissioned by the administration of William Howard Taft in 1911 to create a design to replace the Liberty Head design from Charles E. Barber on the US nickel. A resident of the American Midwest, born and raised in Winona, Minnesota, Fraser was accustomed to life on the American Plains. He used images from his youth as inspiration for the coin design that would eventually grace the Buffalo Nickel.
Black Diamond, a resident bison of New York City’s Central Park Zoo was the inspiration behind his buffalo design, which features on the reverse of both the Buffalo Nickel and the modern American Gold Buffalo.
For the obverse, he used the right-profile of an American Indian as the primary design. It did not represent one individual, but rather a compilation of the facial features taken from three real-life Native American leaders. The identity of those men was shrouded in mystery for years, but in 1938 he stated that the inspirational figures had been Iron Tail of the Sioux, Big Tree of the Kiowa, and Two Moons of the Cheyenne.
The Bullion and Collectible Coin Production Efficiency and Cost Saving Act became law in the US on December 4, 2015. In addition to provisions impacting the American Gold and American Silver Eagle coins, the law set forth provisions to establish the Gold American Buffalo as the permanent .9999 fine gold bullion coin of the United States, meaning its annual production is all-but guaranteed following its 10th anniversary.
Behind the Silver American Eagle among popular silver coins from the US Mint, the recently introduced America the Beautiful coin series is an exciting silver product lineup with great variety of designs. America the Beautiful is a 56-coin commemorative coin series that includes 5 troy oz of .999 fine silver, and each coin bears a face value of $.25 (USD). The series launched in 2010 and includes a five-coin release schedule for each production year. Individual coins in the series represent a different national park, national forest, or historic monument from each of the 50 US states, the District of Columbia, and the nation’s five overseas territories.
Each coin bears the unique image of a representative park, forest, or memorial from across the country. The common obverse design is similar to the circulation US quarter. A left-profile portrait of President George Washington is featured on this side, along with the coin’s face value, weight, metal content, and purity. The America the Beautiful series was inspired by the state quarters program that was in circulation from 1999-2008.
The United States Mint was also the point of origin for some of the most historically significant, rare, collectible US coins. In addition to these modern coin programs, investors can still find historic silver products from the US Mint. These consist of former circulation coins that are difficult to find in the modern era. Among the most popular are the Morgan Silver Dollar, the Peace Silver Dollar, and the nation’s 90% silver dimes, quarters, and half-dollar coins.
Morgan Silver Dollars are the oldest silver coins still available from the US Mint. These coins were first struck from 1878 to 1904, with limited production again in 1921. Designed by George T. Morgan, the Morgan Silver Dollar is one of the nation’s most famous historic coins. The Peace Silver Dollar was introduced in 1921 to replace the Morgan Silver Dollar after its brief return following World War I.
If you have any questions about the United States Mint or products offered courtesy of Silver.com, don’t hesitate to ask. Our associates are available at 888-989-7223, you can connect with us online using our live web chat, or you can simply submit your questions to us via email.