The United States’ bullion-coin program was launched in 1986. Since then, American Eagle and other U.S. silver, gold, and platinum coins have provided investors with convenient vehicles to add physical bullion to their investment portfolios.
In addition to regular investment-grade strikes, the U.S. Mint offers its bullion coins in various collectible formats. Proofs are created in a specialized minting process: a polished coin blank is manually fed into a press fitted with special dies; the blank is struck multiple times “so the softly frosted yet detailed images seem to float above a mirror-like field” (per Mint literature); a white-gloved inspector scrutinizes the coin; and it is then sealed in a protective plastic capsule and mounted in a satin-lined velvet presentation case along with a certificate of authenticity. Members of the public can purchase Proofs directly from the Mint, at fixed prices.
From 2006 to 2008, Burnished (called Uncirculated by the Mint) coins were also sold directly to the public. These coins are distinguished from regular bullion strikes by a W mintmark (for West Point), and by their distinctive finish (the result of burnished coin blanks). Their blanks were individually fed by hand into specially adapted coining presses. After striking, each Burnished specimen was carefully inspected, encapsulated in plastic, and packaged in a satin-lined velvet presentation case, along with a certificate of authenticity.
Regular bullion-strike coins are bought in bulk by Mint-authorized purchasers (wholesalers, brokerage companies, precious-metal firms, coin dealers, and participating banks). These authorized purchasers in turn sell them to secondary retailers, who then make them available to the general public. Authorized purchasers are required to meet financial and professional criteria, attested to by an internationally accepted accounting firm. They must be an experienced and established market-maker in bullion coins; provide a liquid two-way market for the coins; be audited annually; have an established and broad retail-customer base for distribution; and have a tangible net worth of $5 million (for American Silver Eagles) or $50 million (for gold and platinum American Eagles). Authorized purchasers of gold must have sold more than 100,000 ounces of gold bullion coins over any 12-month period since 1990. For gold and platinum, the initial order must be for at least 1,000 ounces, with reorders in increments of 500 ounces. For American Eagles, an authorized purchaser’s cost is based on the market value of the bullion, plus a premium to cover minting, distribution, and other overhead expenses. For ASEs, the premium is $1.50 per coin. For gold, the premiums are 3% (for the one ounce coin), 5% (1/2 ounce), 7% (1/4 ounce), and 9% (1/10 ounce). For platinum: 4% (for the one ounce coin), 6% (1/2 ounce), 10% (1/4 ounce), and 15% (1/10 ounce).
Note that the U.S.Mint does not release bullion mintage data on a regular basis; the numbers given herein reflect the most recently available official data.
The listed values of uncertified, average Mint State coins have been based on current bullion prices