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American Eagle Gold Bullion Program
by Mike Sussman

On 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 replaced.

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 Eagles.”

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

 


American Eagle Silver and Gold Bullion Coins


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