Last year the U.S. Mint announced that after using the same
obverse and reverse designs on the American Silver Eagle since its debut in 1986, they would launch a new reverse design
for this icon coin in 2021.
New reverse design
Dubbed the type 2 Silver Eagle, that new reverse was
unveiled last October. It depicts an American Eagle carrying an oak branch as
it prepares to land in a nest. Surrounding the eagle design are inscriptions
for the country of issue, denomination, weight and fineness as well as the
national motto, “ E Pluribus Unum”.
The motif was designed by Emily Damstra, a freelance natural
science illustrator who has been part of the U.S. Mint’s Artistic Infusion
Program for several years who has designed over 40 other U.S. coins and coins
for the Royal Canadian Mint and postage stamps for the United Nations. The
design was sculpted by Michael Gaudioso, who retired from the Mint last year as
Ms. Damstra noted of her design: “My inspiration for this
design grew from a desire to show our national bird—with all of the values it
embodies—in a unique way that could also convey traits such as diligence,
cooperation, care, and protection.”
When this news about the new Silver Eagle broke, many
collectors thought the 2020 American Silver Eagle would be the final coin to
feature the reverse design used since the beginning, which is the Heraldic Eagle
created by former U.S. Mint Chief Engraver John Mercanti, who designed more
coins for the Mint than any other person.
But last fall the Mint also announced that this year, 2021
Silver Eagle coins of both type 1 and type 2 reverses would be issued, and that
the type 2 coins would debut around June. There is still no firm release date
So far, the Mint has issued bullion coins and Proof pieces
minted at the West Point Mint with the original design. There are also the Philadelphia and San Francisco Mint Emergency Issue bullion
Later it will issue these coins with the type 2 reverse: Proofs
minted at West Point and San Francisco, the annual West Point burnished
uncirculated coin, a special 2-coin Reverse Proof set that is expected to
include coins with the new design and possibly others too.
Type 1 reverse history
According to the law that established the American Silver
Eagle program, the Liberty Coin Act of 1985, the reverse of the coin must carry
an image of an American Eagle. That design can be changed only after its has
been used for 25 years based on a law from the 19th century, and
once changed it can’t be changed again for another 25 years.
On the one hand, there has been growing interest among
collectors for years in seeing new designs on this flagship coin, especially on
the reverse since the obverse design by Adolph Weinmann based his Walking
Liberty half dollar obverse — that shows Lady Liberty striding towards the
dawn of a new day — remains extremely popular. There are not many collectors
who want to see the obverse changed.
On the other hand, changing the design on such a major coin
poses some risks, especially for those who are primarily bullion stackers and
those who are partial to the original reverse design.
Mercanti’s original reverse remains popular with plenty of collectors.
It was modeled after the Great Seal of the United States and shows an eagle
spreading its wings behind a union shield that is clutching arrows as well as
olive branches – the twin motifs used on many past coins to represent the
message that the U.S. is prepared to defend itself but wants peace. 13 stars
appear above the eagle, and in its beak, it grasps a ribbon with the motto, “E
Pluribus Unum,” or “Out of many, one.”
When asked to create the reverse for this important coin,
Mercanti first reviewed the countless eagles that has appeared on so many U.S.
coins since the Mint’s founding. In fact, the earliest laws about the Mint
required that an eagle appear on the reverse of every coin. He did not want to
do what had been done before such as all those soaring eagles, flying eagles,
etc. and wanted something that would be more formal and more heraldic, which is
what led him towards his design.
After 35 years quite a few collectors and buyers are
ready for something new. In addition, some feel the original reverse design is
a bit static when paired with the dynamic obverse design.
But how was the new design selected?
Once the U.S. Mint’s Director David J. Ryder decided to
pursue changing the reverse design, he had to receive approval by then Treasury
Secretary Stephen Mnuchin, which he received in 2019. The Mint’s artists then
prepared a large portfolio of 39 designs that include a wide range of classic
and modern-looking motifs. They were reviewed last June by the Citizens Coinage
Advisory Committee and the Commission on Fine Arts, which ended up picking
different designs to recommend.
The CFA recommended the design that was eventually selected,
while the CCAC initially coalesced around the same one but at the last minute
recommended switching it with the design recommended for the Gold Eagle – a close-up
profile of the head of an eagle that was ultimately selected by the Treasury
Secretary for that coin. But the Secretary stuck with the design of an eagle
landing for the silver coin – a more traditional design than the one that will
appear on the gold coins.
The new reverse design is expected to inject a lot of excitement
into the American Silver Eagle series, including bringing in plenty of new
collectors who will want to build sets of the coins with both design types. This
could help push values for some of the better date and key date coins up in the
future since more people will be looking for those coins.
Finally, keep in mind that the new design also coincides
with the introduction of increased security and anti-counterfeiting devices on
the coin that are designed to bring them up to the higher security standards of
coins like the Canadian Maple Leaf. This is being done in large part because of
the increasing threat of fake coins.
This content was originally published here.
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