Eagle Gold Bullion Program by Mike Sussman
September 9, 1985, President Ronald Reagan issued an executive
order that began economic sanctions against the Union of South
Africa because of its policy of apartheid. The sanctions included
a ban on the importation of the Kugerrand, which was a highly
popular bullion coin in the United States. Three months later
congress passed legislation that created the American Eagle
gold coin program that would be an acceptable alternative
to the Kugerrand. The new coins were released on October 20,
1986. They were one ounce coins that were .917 fine because
that was the weight and gold content of the Kugerrand they
This program was the first time the Mint
issued bullion coins that were legal tender since the ban
on private gold ownership was removed in 1974. The new law
specified that the gold must come from American sources.
The obverse of the new gold coin was taken
from Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ 1907 double eagle. Among
the changes to the design was the figure of Liberty was slimmed
down, more in keeping with current preferences. The reverse
was designed by Miley Busiek and showed a “Family of
In the first year of issue, a proof coin
was also made available to the public. The next year a half
ounce proof gold coin was made available too. In 1988, a tenth
ounce and quarter ounce were added and have been made every
year except for 2009.
Originally the dates were in Roman numerals,
like the Saint-Gaudens’ originals. However, in 1992,
the dates were changed to Arabic numbers.
Sets with special burnished surfaces were
made from 2006 to 2008 for collectors.
In 1989 the West Point Mint produced a five
dollar piece that was struck with proof dies that were unpolished.
This resulted in a regular bullion issue having a W mintmark,
which is usually reserved for proofs. A similar error was
made in 1999 with the ten dollar piece. Usually bullion coins
have no mintmark.
The American Eagle bullion coins are sold
through authorized suppliers instead of being made available
directly to the public as the proof coins have been. The sets
with special burnished surfaces made from 2006 to 2008 were
also sold directly to the public.
Specifications: Composition: .9167 gold, .03 silver, .0533
copper Weight and diameter: $5.00 1/10 oz. 3.393
grams, 16.5 mm
$10.00 ¼ oz. 8.483 grams, 22 mm
$25.00 ½ oz. 16.996 grams, 27 mm
$50.00 1 oz. 33.931 grams, 32.7 mm Edge: reeded