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Silver Eagles get harder look

A new shipment of 2008 silver American Eagles arrived in Iola this week. We use them as subscription premiums. They are very popular.

I have one on my desk this morning as a reminder to write this blog. The discovery of the 2008-W uncirculated silver American Eagle with the reverse of 2007 reported in the May 6 issue of Numismatic News has added to the general interest in what has been a very popular coin since it was created in 1986.

There is still some confusion out there as to just what a 2008-W American Eagle is as compared to a regular 2008 silver American Eagle that is usually just called a one-ounce bullion coin.

Let’s start with the bullion coin first. It was created in 1986. The Mint made a decision to sell them only to a small group of authorized dealers, who in turn sell them to a wider numismatic marketplace. The coin has no mintmark on its reverse.

Some collectors complained from the first that they didn’t want to buy the coin from a dealer but would prefer to buy directly from the U.S. Mint.

In 2006, the Mint changed a policy of almost 20 years standing and decided to offer uncirculated silver American Eagles directly to collectors. Perhaps out of a concern not to undercut sales to the authorized dealers, the Mint put a “W” mintmark on the coins, struck them on burnished blanks and charged more for them. The coins are still technically uncirculated and the Mint calls them that.

Shorthand in the hobby often refers to them as burnished. I always add the “W” to the date to help in making the distinction.

The Mint sells the 2008-W uncirculated coins struck on the burnished blanks for $25.95. A regular 2008 bullion American Eagle without the mintmark sells for $20 or less at the moment from the nation’s coin dealers.

Those who like to order the new coins directly from the Mint were rewarded when some of the 2008-W uncirculated pieces that were delivered to them turned out to have last year’s reverse on them. You can buy one from advertisers in Numismatic News for $395. That’s quite a leap from the issue price. Buyers who got them from the Mint for $25.95 are feeling pretty good.

So far, no 2008 bullion American Eagles without the mintmark have turned up with last year’s reverse. They all sport the new letter “U” in UNITED STATES OF AMERICA on the reverse that has the downstroke on it that makes it look like a lower case “u.” The reverses in 2007 and before do not have this downstroke on the letter.

These bullion coins are popular simply for another reason. They contain one troy ounce of silver and silver is hot.