One of the US Mint’s most popular offerings is the American Silver Eagle. After a few years of turbulence, it appears that the US Mint is prepared to issue all three anticipated versions of the 2011 Silver Eagle. This includes the regular bullion coins, which have already been released, and the collectible proof and uncirculated versions, scheduled to be released later in the year.
The bullion versions of the 2011 American Silver Eagles first went on sale to authorized purchasers on January 3, 2011. Following the typical procedures for the program, the authorized purchasers are able to buy the coins directly from the US Mint in bulk quantities based on the silver value plus a premium of $2 per coin. The bullion coins are then resold to other dealers for broader distribution to the public.
From the start of sales, the US Mint’s allocation program has been in place, which serves to ration the available supply of coins amongst the authorized purchasers. The US Mint has used this program at times when demand for silver bullion coins exceeds the available supply.
In the month of January, sales reached an astounding 6,422,000 coins, setting a new record for monthly sales. The number of coins sold in the following months dropped, although this might be attributable to the impact of allocation rather than a decline in demand. Through the current date, sales have reached 12,429,000.
CoinWorld recently reported that the San Francisco Mint will strike Silver Eagle bullion coins starting in May. For more than ten years, the coins have only been produced at the West Point Mint. Although the bullion coins won’t carry a mint mark to denote the source, I could see some sellers trying to differentiate the coins, especially if pick up from the San Francisco Mint can be arranged.
At this point, it seems likely that Silver Eagle bullion coin sales will break another annual record. Since 2008, annual sales have set successive record highs. For the 2010 calendar year, Silver Eagle bullion coin sales were 34,662,500.
2011 Silver Eagle Proof Coins
Collectors will remember that the 2009 Proof Silver Eagle was canceled by the US Mint amidst an extended period of high bullion demand. Because the Mint was required to strike the bullion coins in quantities necessary to meet public demand, all incoming precious metals blanks were diverted to bullion production and collector programs suspended and eventually canceled.
In the following year, another cancellation threatened to occur. However, a lull in bullion demand during August and September allowed the 2010 Proof Silver Eagles to be produced. The coins went on sale November 19 and sold out on December 28. The last reported sales were 860,000.
The 2011 Proof Silver Eagle has a release date of June 30, 2011. When the US Mint first provided its scheduled product listing for the year, an exact date was not provided.
There is much more certainty behind this year’s offering than prior years. Late in 2010, a bill was signed into law which changed the legal requirements for American Gold and Silver Eagle coins. Previously, the bullion coins were required to be produced in quantities sufficient to meet public demand. After the change, the law directs the coins to be minted in “quantities and qualities that the Secretary [of the Treasury] determines are sufficient to meet public demand.”
The US Mint (via the Secretary of the Treasury) seems to be ready and willing to use this authority to provide for collector coin production.
2011 Silver Eagle Uncirculated Coins
The second collectible version of the American Silver Eagle, previously issued from 2006 to 2008, seems poised to make a come back this year. The US Mint indicates that the 2011-W Uncirculated Silver Eagle is scheduled to be released in “early fall.”
These coins are struck on burnished blanks and carry the “W” mint mark. As a collector offering, the coins are available for sale directly from the US Mint and priced at a premium to the precious metal value. In the three years of issue so far, the coins have always had a lower mintage than the proof versions.
For both 2009 and 2010, the collectible uncirculated versions had been canceled due to bullion demand.
25th Anniversary Silver Eagles?
In 2006, the United States Mint released special sets to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the American Gold and Silver Eagles. The 20th Anniversary Silver Eagle Set included proof, uncirculated, and reverse proof versions of the coin. With a maximum production of 250,000 units and a unique coin included, the sets were extremely popular. A sell out occurred quickly and prices rose on the secondary market.
As this year is the 25th anniversary of the Silver Eagle, it would certainly be appropriate to celebrate the event with a special set or special version of the coin. Under the modified law covering American Silver Eagles, the door is open to creating such a product despite high bullion demand. Let’s hope the US Mint takes this opportunity to create something unique and appealing for collectors this year.