American Silver Eagles
The American silver eagle came along after silver stockpiles teemed with excess at the National Defense Stockpile in the 1970s. With the tens of millions of ounces in stockpiled silver, the United States government began to look for a way to sell off some of its reserves without crashing the price of silver. Despite strong resistance from mining companies and others in the bullion business, Congress began drafting plans in 1982 for new silver coins as part of the strategy for reducing silver stockpiles.
The initial bills drafted died in the House of Representatives. But in 1985 the Liberty Coin Act was passed and signed into law by president Ronald Reagan, ushering in the era of the American silver eagle, a coin that would become one of the most popular silver bullion items ever.
Silver American eagles were first issued on September 1, 1986 as a result of the Liberty Coin Act empowering the Treasury to mint and issue silver bullion coins. Purity is set by law to be 0.999 fine (99.9% pure silver) and weight is stipulated as one troy ounce.
The face value of the American silver eagle is $1 and the Walking Liberty design on the obverse side was borrowed from Adolph A. Weinman's popular Walking Liberty half dollar, which was produced from 1916 through 1947. The reverse of the silver eagle boasts the seal of the United States of America with 13 stars representing the original colonies.
Silver eagles have enjoyed spectacular success with an almost constant increase in mintage year after year. Sales have skyrocketed since the 2008 housing market crash and subsequent financial crisis, leading the U.S. Mint to strike 30 to 50 million American silver eagle coins during a typical year; those figures are several times greater than the average mintages for American silver eagles from anytime in the 1980s and 1990s. While the majority of these mintage figures are comprised of uncirculated or "bullion" examples of the American silver eagle, these numbers also include special proof silver eagles, which are primarily collected by numismatists.