For more than a third of a century, collectors young and old have flocked to the beauty, safety, and security of the American Silver Eagle. In 2021, the series is set to mark its 35th anniversary, and the United States Mint is giving the coin a new look to mark the occasion. The coin will change both in revser design, which has been stable throughout the series, and security features, for which demand has grown in recent years thanks in large part to developments in other bullion series. So far as of January 2020, the Mint has not yet revealed the extent of the design changes to the reverses of the Gold and Silver American Eagle series. Given the popularity of the series – it is widely considered the world’s most collected bullion coin by far – these changes are sure to generate shockwaves throughout the numismatic world and are likely to make issues both new and old even more appealing to collectors and stackers alike.
Original American Silver Eagle Design- A Mercanti Masterpiece
Adolph Weinman’s famous Walking Liberty design, which was struck on half dollars from 1916-1947 before returning for this series, will remain in place. Even so, the redesign will at least somewhat replace the work of a legend- the extent of which remains to be seen. Former United States Mint Chief Engraver John Mercanti created the reverse design for the first ever Silver Eagle in 1986, and there it has remained ever since. Mercanti is the most prolific designer in the history of the US Mint since his work has appeared on over 100 coins and medals. He continues to design coins well after his retirement and has recently been collaborating with the Perth Mint on their popular Wedge-Tailed Eagle series.
Mercanti modeled his reverse design after the Great Seal of the United States. An eagle spreads its wings behind a union shield. The bird clutches arrows, symbols of America’s willingness to defend her values, and an olive branch, which represents peace, in its talons. It also holds in its beak a ribbon with the inscription “E PLURIBUS UNUM” (From many, one). Thirteen stars at the top of the design represent the country’s original states.
Original American Gold Eagle Design
The bullion American Gold Eagle series will receive the same treatment in 2021 to its reverse design. The American Gold Eagle reverse was designed by Miley Busiek and has been in use on the gold issues since they debuted alongside the Silver Eagles in 1986. The original reverse design features a family of eagles. A male eagle clutching an olive branch is about to land in a next that houses a female eagle and her young. It is on this face that many of the coins inscriptions appear.
These reverse design modifications will debut on the bullion Silver American Eagle as well as the Gold American Eagle in 2021 with burnished and proof issues to follow. So far there is no plan to extend any more design changes to the Platinum or Palladium Eagle series.
Collectors on Edge For Design Reveal
So far, collector reaction to the announcement of a Silver Eagle redesign has been mixed, largely because the new design has yet to be seen. As with any change, there are those who are already mourning the loss of the famous image. Others, however, think that the current design has run its course and are looking forward to something new. Perhaps the most common reaction is a wait and see approach, which is common among those who are open to something new but are reserving judgment until they see what that is.
The new design sets up some new dynamics among collectors. For one, it sets up two types of Silver Eagles. Coins dated from 1986-2020 will constitute the Heraldic Eagle Reverse Set. This gives collectors the chance to close the book on a complete set of Silver Eagles if they choose to do so. Those who are new to collecting have the opportunity to start anew with the series without feeling a need to ‘catch up’ by purchasing older editions. Most collectors likely have some Silver Eagles already and will continue buying after the design changes. Some speculate that the redesign could increase demand in 2020 and increase demand for issues with the original design, but only time will tell if that is true.
Improved Security Features on the American Eagle Design
One change that is likely to be welcomed by all collectors, including ardent fans of the Mercanti design, is the introduction of new security features. As minting technology improves, so too does the ability of counterfeiters to create replicas. Other world mints, such as the Royal Canadian Mint and the British Royal Mint, have introduced security features in recent years. Now the US Mint looks set to follow suit with three levels of security. The first level will be visible to the naked eye, making trade among collectors easier, especially online. The second will be something that those in the trade know to look for. Third, and most intriguing, the new issue is likely to include a forensic feature that is identifiable only to the Mint and the Secret Service. While the first two features will likely prove extremely difficult for counterfeiters to replicate, the third will be impossible.
The changes to the Silver Eagle will certainly spice up the series and offer new options to collectors. New security features may also bring collectors who moved to coins that introduced them years ago back to the world's favorite series. While changes to the Silver Eagle are likely to get the most attention from collectors in 2021, they are far from the only changes. The American Gold Eagle will also get a new design, and collectors and non-collectors alike will see George Washington crossing the Delaware on the reverses of quarters.