Collecting American Gold Eagles: Do You Have These Key Dates?

Collecting American Gold Eagles: Do You Have These Key Dates?

The American Gold Eagle series was introduced in 1986. It was a latecomer to the world of private gold ownership, as it debuted after other modern series like the South African Gold Krugerrand, the Canadian Gold Maple, and the Mexican Gold Libertad. At the time, this was the only annual gold series to be guaranteed by the United States government for bullion purity and gold weight. 


The design features the familiar Augustus Saint-Gaudens $20 “Double Eagle” obverse depicting a full-length Liberty holding the Torch of Enlightenment overhead. The reverse features an original-to-the-series “Family of Eagles” design by artist Miley (Busiek) Tucker-Frost. This design is due to be replaced in 2021 with a new reverse. This change makes a clear boundary between what might be called the “first type” of American Gold Eagle and the forthcoming “second type.”


The series remains popular with collectors either because of, or despite rising gold prices. An exciting anomaly with the series is that ¼ and ½ oz. versions of the coin tend to have lower average mintage numbers across the board. This trend of lower mintages may be simply a case of these sizes being overlooked by collectors. The 1/10 oz. Gold Eagle typically has more substantial mintages and greater interest from collectors--despite the higher premiums above spot price--simply because the barriers to entry are lower than for the larger coins. 

First Year of Issue: 1986

 1986 1 oz. Gold Eagle Proof and Bullion Coins


The first year of issue typically holds a special place in the hearts and collections of students of the series. High-quality examples are plentiful and eagerly snapped up by series aficionados and type collectors.

Key Date Bullion American Gold Eagles

1991 ½ oz. Gold Eagle

1991 issues feature comparatively lower mintages across the board, however the ½ oz. issue holds the low mintage record for the bullion series to date.


1999 1/10 and ¼ oz. Gold Eagles—struck with unfinished Proof dies

One of the curious entries into the series is this pair of coins. The coins were struck as bullion issues but unlike their bullion counterparts, they feature the iconic West Point Mint “W” mintmark. They also feature an unusual finish. As the name suggests, the dies used to strike these coins were proof dies and did not receive the final polish in their specialized preparation. The mintages are often thought to be to be at 6,000 coins per issue, which is a guess, arrived at due to the average life of a die. The coins are popular with small denomination collectors, error collectors and students of the series.


2014 and 2015 1/10 oz. Gold Eagles-- Narrow Reeds

There were two collars with different reeding used to strike the $5 American Gold Eagle in 2014 and 2015. The so-called “Narrow Reeds” variety has much finer reeding than that of the slightly coarser standard reeding. The 2014 seems to be the less common issue and often commands hefty premiums.

Key Date Proof American Gold Eagles

Proof American Gold Eagles are the original “Numismatic Version” of the series. These coins feature the highest quality finish. Proof coinage all over the world is regarded as the pinnacle of the coin collecting hobby. Coins featuring this finish have been used as diplomatic gifts, museum showpieces, and the cornerstone of many private collections. 


2001 1 oz. Proof Gold Eagle

This marks the first low mintage in the series at 24,555 coins and for years was considered if not THE Key-Date, it was A Semi-Key or Better Date coin. It would eventually be over-taken by the 2012-W Proof American Gold Eagle which had a mintage of 23,805.


2017 1 oz. Proof Gold Eagle

The 2017 issue marks another astonishingly low mintage in the Proof series at 9,245 coins.


2020 Proof Gold Eagle with V75 Privy

Not only is this the final year of issue for the original reverse, the V75 Privy Gold Eagle is due later this year. The coin is meant to mark the 75th Anniversary of the Allied Victory that ended World War II. This exciting issue has a mintage limit of 1,945 coins which would make it, by far, the lowest absolute mintage in the series to date.


Key Date Burnished American Gold Eagle

The Burnished Gold Eagle is a very interesting sub-set of the series. The Burnished American Gold Eagle is the second "Numismatic Version" of the coin to be introduced. The coins are created using dies and planchets prepared using a metal-polishing-metal technique that results in the unique, uniform frosty appearance. Burnished entries were first struck in 2006 in the 1/10, ¼, ½ and 1-ounce sizes. Due to decreased demand related to the country's financial turmoil in 2008, the Burnished entries in the series went "on hiatus" for 2009 and 2010. When the Burnished coins resumed production in 2011, only the 1 oz. size remained.

Overall, the Burnished Gold Eagle mintages tend to be substantially lower than their proof and bullion cousins. The highest mintage entries for Burnished Gold Eagles are the 2006 1 oz, the 2006 1/10 oz, and the 2007 1/10 oz. An exciting and achievable type set would be a fractional set of Burnished Gold Eagle coins. Most mintages are under 15,000.

2008 Burnished ¼ oz Gold Eagle

Of the decalred mintages, the Burnished 2008 ¼ oz.  Gold Eagle stands out as the lowest mintage entry in the series at 8,883 for a fractional coin. Its low mintage status could possible change over the years, but is unlikely since the Mint has not released fractional Burnished American Gold Eagle coins in the past few years.


2011 Burnished 1 oz. Gold Eagle

This is the first American Gold Eagle in the Burnished sub-set after the two year hiatus following the financial crisis years of 2009 and 2010 when no Burnished coins were struck  It features a mintage of 8,729 which to that point was the absolute low of the series.  Many collectors will look at this as a semi-key date due to the reintroduction of the Burnished coin and the initial status as the lowest mintage coin to that point.


2017 Burnished 1 oz Gold Eagle and beyond

The lowest mintage to date is the 2017 1 oz. Burnished AGE with a series low of 5,800 coins struck. The 2012 1 oz. entry in the series is not far behind with 6,118 coins struck.

Historically, key-date coins can and do occur anywhere in the run but they tend to occur around the introduction or conclusion of a series or at times associated with economic turmoil. With the introduction of a new reverse for 2021, the rise in gold prices that has occurred over the last year and the economic disruption associated with the Covid-19 Pandemic, the stage could be set for this collector favorite to set a new all-time low mintage for the series, but only time will tell.

Key Date American Silver EaglesKey Date American Silver Eagles
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