In 1986, the United States Treasury embarked on a new bullion coin program that would prove to be one of the most popular in the world. The American Eagle program, approved under the Bullion Coin Act of 1985, would join other world mints, including Canada and South Africa, as a producer of fine bullion coins that would be recognized by investors internationally. 1986 American silver eagles are coins that contain 1 ounce of .9999 fine silver, and is the only silver coin in the American Eagle series, which also includes gold coins weighing 1/10 ounce, 1/4 ounce, 1/2 ounce, and 1 ounce.
While the American Eagle series started out as patently a bullion investor’s coin, the program has caught on with numismatists, too, many of whom collect the coin on an annual basis. Part of the reason the American silver eagle is so popular is that it features the famous Walking Liberty design that first debuted on the half dollar in 1916. The design, a creation of Adolph A. Weinman, helped make the Walking Liberty half dollar (struck from 1916 through 1947) one of the world’s most beautiful coins.
For most years of the American silver eagle program, both uncirculated and proof versions have been struck. In 1986, 5,393,005 uncirculated American silver eagles were produced at the Philadelphia mint while 1,446,778 were made at the San Francisco mint. The first American silver eagles were released to the public on November 24, 1986.