The American Eagle Silver coin owes its existence to the ballooning national deficit in the 1970s and early 1980s. Although the national stockpile of silver far exceeded any strategic need, a long history of bowing to the mining industry stood in the way of selling off the excess.
Silver futures are inordinately susceptible to large distributions, so the mining industry put considerable pressure on the government to find other means to deal with its debt. Nonetheless, the House Armed Services Committee decided to approve President Reagan’s request to sell government-owned silver, beginning in fiscal 1982. The House and Senate subsequently agreed to allow the sale of 75% of the stockpiled silver over a three-year period beginning in July, 1981.
However, Senator James A. McClure, a Republican representing the major silver-producing state of Idaho, was instrumental in blocking future sales of stockpiled silver. Although his motives were questionable, his reasoning was not.
“Therefore, today, “ McClure stated, “I am introducing legislation which provides that in the event the President proposes and Congress authorizes the sale of silver from the strategic stockpile, this silver would be sold through the minting and distribution of a silver-bearing coin.”
It took several more years for McClure’s logic to prevail. Mintage of the American Silver Eagle bullion coin began in 1986 to which the United States Mint added proof and uncirculated versions for collectors. The Silver Eagle has since been produced at three mints: Philadelphia, San Francisco, and West Point.
The obverse of the American Silver Eagle portrays Adolph A. Weinman’s widely acclaimed Walking Liberty design, which has made the Eagle one of the most sought after silver bullion coins in the world. Above the eagle are thirteen stars.
The reverse of the Silver Eagle portrays the heraldic eagle behind a shield, grasping an olive branch in its right talon, arrows in its left, and a banner inscribed “E PLURIBUS UNUM” in its beak, along with the inscriptions “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,” “1 OZ. FINE SILVER,” “ONE DOLLAR,” and the mintmark when applicable.
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