If you’re a serious coin collector, it’s likely that you have an American Eagle gold coin within your collection. These coins harbor a great deal of attention from collectors and general citizens, not only for their value but for their unique design. Featuring a modified version of the national seal, the bald eagle, this coin—which is produced with a new minting each year—is often desired among enthusiasts, particularly for their investment worth.
Minted in West Point, New York, this coin is produced in a number of different weights, including: 1/10 of an ounce, ¼ of an ounce, ½ of an ounce and one ounce. Each of these denominations comes with its own face value, which correspondingly are as follows: $5, $10, $25 and $50.
Each of these coins are guaranteed to be measured to its gold weight—that is, it is measured in Troy ounces. While this means that every American Eagle coin is recognized as legal tender, it also means that items weigh slightly more than people might expect. The 1 ounce Gold American Eagle coin—which is the most popular from the series for investors and collectors alike—actually weighs approximately 1.09 ounces.
Yet, even with all of this in mind, there is a greater reason why people enjoy purchasing, investing in and collecting American Eagle coins, and it’s a story that involves a rich history worth exploring.
The Pre-1933 American Eagle Gold Coin
The origins of the American Eagle coin date all the way back to the 18th century. Starting back in 1792, this coin was offered in a variety of official mints, including:
- The original American Eagle Gold coin ($10)
- The Gold Quarter Eagle coin ($2.50)
- The Gold Half Eagle coin ($5)
- The Double Eagle Gold coin ($20)
Due to the time of their production and circulation, these coins were made under the English standard known as “crown gold,” which meant that the coins were to be minted with 22-karat gold. However, the U.S. abandoned the “crown gold” standard in 1834, reducing the gold content to a standard of 0.900 fine gold.
The coin and its variants continued throughout circulation during the 19th century, but were discontinued by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933. It was with the passage of the Executive Order 6102 (1933) that it was made a criminal offense for a U.S. citizen to be in possession of gold of any kind—although some collector’s items and jewelry were exempted. Under this executive order, citizens were mandated to exchange their existing gold ownership into an equivalent paper currency, so the U.S. Federal Exchange could be in possession of the total gold reserves.
The reason for their discontinuation was caused by the Great Depression, which had started in 1929 and lasted until 1939. Roosevelt discontinued the gold coin in hopes that it would protect banks from going bankrupt during the early stages of the Depression—because modern federal safeguards that prevent such a thing from happening nowadays did not exist at that time. While this executive order was passed into legislation, it would not be the last step in reducing the circulation of gold in the 1930s.
The following year, Executive Order 6102 was ratified—under what was known as the Gold Reserve Act of 1934—which required that all U.S. citizens in possession of gold and gold certificates minted by the Federal Reserve had to turn them in to the government so they could be removed from circulation and entered into the full ownership of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, thus increasing the scarcity of these coins more than before. Furthermore, this ratification banned the total export and ownership of gold within the U.S., along with restricting the previous programs that allowed people to convert their gold into paper money.
While this removed gold from the hands of U.S. citizens, this governmental act proved useful as the spot price per Troy ounce of gold saw an increase from $20.67/oz. to $35/oz. This sparked the interest of foreign investors, who exported large quantities of gold to the United States, which in turn helped increase the accumulation of gold within both the Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury–intended to spark an inflation in the USD.
Since that time, and the turnaround of the Great Depression, the U.S. shifted away from the gold standard, relying instead on paper currency. This largely led to gold coins disappearing throughout the middle of the 20th century, wherein collectors started holding onto them for investment purposes rather than using them in circulation. For this reason, these pre-1933 American Eagle coins provide particular interest in coin collectors, as they carry a significant American numismatical history.
However, the prohibitions instated under the Gold Reserve Act of 1934 began to be withdrawn over time, starting around 1964. It was during this time that American citizens were once again allowed to make private investments in gold. Americans were once again able to buy, sell and own gold without issue just a decade later. And in just another decade, the American Eagle Gold coin would see its reemergence.
The Gold Bullion Coin Act of 1985
Following the disappearance of most all gold coins from circulation during the middle of the 20th century, the coin would see a revival soon before the turn of the century. Due to the influence of Congress, the Gold Bullion Coin Act of 1985 was signed into legislation by Ronald Reagan. This act—which amended past codifications—authorized the U.S. treasury to allow the minting of new gold bullion coins.
These coins were to be produced by gold from newly mined U.S. sources, and they were to be imprinted with both their fine gold content and the valuation of their legal face value. The significance of this act is that it not only allowed for the reemergence of an American standard of gold coins, but it helped to turn the American Eagle Gold coin into one of the world’s leading gold bullion coins, as well as changing the precious metals market from what it once was.
Following the passage of this act in 1985, the first American Eagle Gold coins were released in 1986. Due to it being a coin that is made from gold specifically mined from within the U.S., this coin has become the staple for modern American interest in bullion.
The American Eagle Gold Coin From 1986 to Present Time
While the U.S. might have abandoned the “crown gold” standard in 1834, it has since returned to the minting of 22-karat gold for modern gold American Eagle coins. This means that these coins consist of 91.67 percent pure gold. Similar to American Eagle coins from centuries past, the remaining 8.33 percent (3 percent silver and 5.33 percent copper) of the coin consists of a mix of silver and copper.
While it might seem as if the lower percentage of gold lessens the value of the coin (that it isn’t made entirely of pure gold), this combination makes for a coin that is more durable, meaning that you do not have to worry about natural wear on your investment.
Furthermore, the benefit to the minting of these coins is that they are not available for purchase directly from the U.S. Mint, meaning that they have a more effective and secure mode of transportation. American Eagle coins made from precious metals are thus sold by institutions like wholesale retailers and precious metal dealers, which increases the overall availability of these coins within the market. All purchases made through these retailers and institutions provide sales that are authorized by the U.S. Mint.
The American Eagle Gold Coin Design
Besides its innate monetary value, the American Eagle Gold coin is lauded by many for its intricate, uniquely American design. The design holds special historical significance for its presentation on both its obverse and reverse sides, featuring artwork designated from both the early and latter parts of the 20th century.
The obverse side of the gold coin features a rendition of the full figure of Lady Liberty, as designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens. This design is taken from the $20 Saint-Gaudens gold coin which was first commissioned by Theodore Roosevelt and was produced by the U.S. Mint from 1907 to 1933 (at the time of their discontinuation due to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s passage of the 1934 Gold Reserve Act). Roosevelt asked for the coin to appear reminiscent of ancient coins found in both Greece and Rome, in hopes of celebrating the power brought about by the United States of America since its official formation in 1776.
Augustus Saint-Gaudens Lady Liberty appears to be mythic on the coin, with her hair flowing over her shoulders as she walks toward they who are in possession of the coin. Depicted in the middle of her stride, she holds an olive branch in her left hand and carries a lit torch with her right—signs of resounding peace while lighting the way forward the future of all Americans. The U.S. Capitol building can be seen behind her in the distance, a monument of the American federal government.
The reverse design of the Gold American Eagle coin features a male eagle as portrayed by the sculptor Miley Busiek. The male eagle has an olive branch grasped between its talons and flies above a nest which has a female eagle and her hatchlings. Not only representative of the peaceful nature of American diplomacy, the male and female eagle, along with their hatchlings, are representative of the American people, as well as the familial structure for which this country is founded upon.
The Importance for Investors
The American Eagle Gold coin is of notable interest for investors due to its relatively low cost and ever-increasing high value. Whether you’re someone seeking to make sound investments in gold bullion for future endeavors or a coin collector seeking high-ticket items, the Gold American Eagle makes a great addition to any portfolio.
This value is only heightened for the fact that these bullion coins are valued for their weight in precious metals, which correlates to their specific spot price. Whereas numismatic, collectible coins are wanted by collectors for their age, rarity and condition, American Eagle coins are valued for their usefulness when it comes to investing. Compared to traditional investment options, American Eagle Bullion coins offer investors an alternative, physical option—something tangible—that can be owned, and will be expected to increase in value over time.
Since its launch in 1986, these American Eagle Gold and Silver bullion coins have garnered interest due to the notable spot price of these precious metals and the portfolio options they provide to investors seeking alternative additions to their physical assets. This interest has only increased over the past two decades, as precious metals such as platinum and palladium were added to the American Eagle Bullion family respectively in 1997 and 2017.
If you don’t already have an American Gold Eagle coin, be sure to explore our selection and add one or more to your collection today!