Authorized by the Bullion Coin Act of 1985 and first minted in 1986, American Eagle gold coins are the official gold bullion coins of the United States. By law these coins are minted at the 22-karat standard (.9167 gold) and can be produced only from gold mined in the United States. While imprinted with both their gold content (guaranteed by the U.S. government) and legal tender or face value, their actual value is based on the fluctuating market price of the metal.
The coin’s obverse was inspired by Augustus Saint-Gaudens' celebrated $20 gold piece minted from 1907 to 1933, featuring a rendition of Lady Liberty with flowing hair, holding a torch in one hand and an olive branch in the other. The reverse, which was designed by sculptor Miley Busiek, features a male eagle, with an olive branch in his talons, about to land in a nest next to a female.
These coins come in four denominations: 1/10 oz, which has a face value of $5; ¼ oz, which is marked as a $10 coin; ½ oz with a $25 face value; and 1 oz with a $50 face value. Not surprisingly, the higher-denomination coins are larger than the lower denominations, but the face values are largely irrelevant since the coins trade for the going rate of gold. They are seen as solid investments because they are the only coins in the world whose contents are guaranteed by the government of the United States.
Although the price of an American Eagle is mostly related to its weight, the coin does have some numismatic value. As with any coin, surface wear and tear can affect its price. To help with the coin’s durability and to prevent scratching, the small percentage of the coin that is not made of gold consists of silver and copper.
There are also proof versions of the American Eagle that were made for collectors and the public at-large at the U.S. Mint in West Point, New York. These American Eagles, which are branded with the ‘W’ mintmark, are cased, authenticated, and sold through the mint itself.
While the coin’s design has changed little in its brief history, there has been one important variation. From 1986 to 1991, the dates on the coins were displayed in Roman numerals. Subsequent gold American Eagles dating from 1992 until the present feature Arabic numerals.
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