By Louis Golino, special to CoinWeek …..
The second half of 2021 will be a busy period for U.S. Mint products. In particular, we will see finally the introduction of much-touted new reverse designs on both the American Silver Eagle and the American Gold Eagle, which will be rolled out starting in July in bullion and Proof versions plus some special and not-so-special sets. We will also see the return for the first time in a century of the beloved Morgan and Peace silver dollars, a gold coin that for the first time shows Liberty as a bucking horse and many other coins and sets.
With so many new coins coming from now until the end of the year, what should the astute buyer keep an eye out for? Which coins are most likely to be secondary market winners, which are most likely to be losers, and which ones are hard to predict how they will do?
First up on June 22 is the U.S. Air Force 2.5-ounce silver medal with no product or household limit, which has been delayed for many months likely due to silver planchet shortages and unprecedented demand for silver bullion. The Mint did a nice job on the design of this medal with Paul C. Balan’s obverse depicting a fighter pilot and F-22 planes and Jamie Franki’s reverse showing the spires of the Air Force Memorial and members of the Air Force Honor Guard in ceremonial assembly; both sides were sculpted by Mint sculptor-engraver Phebe Hemphill.
Some people will undoubtedly want this for their collection of U.S. military medals or perhaps because they or a family member were in the United States Air Force, but at $160 for a 2.5-ounce silver medal with no mintage limit, it is hard to see this one selling out quickly or being a winner in the aftermarket.
UPDATE: Since the publication of this article, the Mint has added a mintage limit of 10,000 and an order limit of one per household. Its June 22 release has also been delayed, with a future on-sale date “to be determined” according to the U.S. Mint’s online product schedule. Additionally, a one-ounce version of the silver medal will also be made. —LG
New Eagle Reverses
July and much of the summer will be dominated by 2021 Type 2 Silver Eagles with the new reverse of 2021. The new silver reverse by Emily Damstra shows an eagle with its wings outstretched as it grasps an oak branch and comes in for a landing to build its nest that is implied but not shown, as the artist has explained in interviews. She included the oak branch because it is a symbol of strength and because the oak is our national tree.
Damstra said she chose it partly so it would be different from other eagles but also because she thought her design was going to be used on the gold coins. With that in mind, she wanted a design that tied in with Miley Tucker-Frost’s original gold reverse with a family of eagles and a focus on the importance of family as a key American value.
As for the new gold reverse designed by Jennie Norris and sculpted by Renata Gordon, it shows a close-up, left-facing profile of just the head of a bald eagle with a notably fierce gaze and finely-detailed beak and plumage that makes the image look so realistic. Norris, who is a former raptor handler, said she tried to “capture the intensity of his gaze through the close cropping of the design,” which is the first time an eagle has been shown this way on American coinage. It has appeared, though, in a somewhat similar fashion on some Canadian and Australian coins and on Mongolia’s Majestic Eagle.
Both coins will also feature some changes to the obverse side–what the Mint calls “a refresh”–intended to make them look more like the original coins those designs are based on – which in some cases means fewer details and in others means modifying details such fonts on both coins and the face of Liberty on the gold coins, which no longer will feature a nose that looks like that of a boxer who got punched in the face. Also, the monograms of the coin designers have been added.
And there are also new security features such as a missing reed on the edge at the six o’clock position on the silver and gold coins and other enhancements that are still secret.
The Mint’s network of Authorized Purchasers is expected to begin receiving shipments of the bullion versions of the Type 2 Silver and Gold Eagles in the coming weeks, and the retail companies they sell to have been aggressively marketing these coins, especially examples graded by NGC and PCGS such as 2-coin sets of both versions of the Silver Eagle.
Silver and Gold Eagle Bullion
While the new bullion coins will certainly not be rare, as the first examples of a new type, it is worth picking up some raw coins, especially if/when currently elevated premiums of over $10 over spot per coin come down a little.
In addition, many dealers are selling MS70 examples of the new silver coins at the rough equivalent of the price of a raw coin plus the grading fee you would pay if you submitted them for grading, which they can do because they are able to have them graded in bulk for less. I see no reason not to get at least an example or a couple of those even if you normally focus on building a raw set provided the price is right, i.e., about $60-70 or slightly more for some labels like first day of issue.
Look at the prices of 1986 first-year-of-issue coins to get some idea of what the long-term potential might be like for these coins, though of course there will be far more 2021 Type 2 coins, and a much higher percentage of 70s because of advances in minting technology.
As for the new Gold Eagles, at the moment dealers are mostly only offering the one-ounce, $50 coins, and prices for graded examples are not cheap, especially with gold in the $1,900 range. But there will surely be lots of demand for all sizes of these coins too. Just keep in mind that premiums especially on fractional coins are quite high in the current market.
Silver and Gold Proof Eagles
Then there are the Proofs, beginning on July 1 with the 2021-W Type 2 Silver Eagle Proof coins with a product limit of 300,000 and no mintage limit, which likely means the coins will be included in another product later such as the Limited Edition Silver Proof Set, which includes annually either the West Point Proof or San Francisco Proof coin.
The 2021-W in its initial offering is virtually certain to be a quick seller and likely will sell out on the first day of sales. 10% of the mintage will be sold through the bulk sales program to certain dealers, and the coin has also been available to order through the enrollment program. But to do that, it was necessary to sign up in advance, and that option is closed now. With the huge demand for silver, high premiums on all silver coins, and as the first examples in Proof of the new reverse design – which Emily Damstra did such a great job designing and Michael Gaudioso sculpted — again this coin will go fast and will likely see a nice aftermarket bump.
On August 16, the 2021-S Silver Eagle Proof coin will be sold, and we do not yet know if this will have a limited mintage or product limit. But as the first Type 2 S-Proof silver coin it is also likely to be a brisk seller and should do well.
For the new American Gold Eagle Proof coins, it is harder to predict what will happen when they go on sale on July 8, but I suspect buyers will grab most of the mintage of each size, which ranges from a low of 12,250 for the half-ounce coin to a high of 20,250 for the tenth-ounce coin with product limits much lower than those figures. Those figures include a four-coin set with a product limit of 10,250. Do not be surprised to see most or all of those coins disappear fast, probably also on the first day or two. Of particular note is the half-ounce coin, with only 2,000 available apart from the set.
Special Eagle Sets
There will also be what the Mint is calling the “Tenth-Ounce Gold Two-Coin Set Designer Edition”, which will include examples of the tenth-ounce gold piece with the reverse of 1986 and the reverse of 2021. The sets, which have a product and mintage limit of 5,000 units, will come in what looks like attractive packaging, but the coins will be the same as those offered individually. This means the actual mintages of each coin are much higher.
While this set could perform like the Congratulations Set that includes each year’s West Point Proof Silver Eagle (except in 2017 when it had the S-Proof), which does sell for a substantial premium over coins not sold that way, especially for graded 70s, it is unclear how these will do. If you already have the tenth-ounce gold Proof coin, you might want to get a single Type 2 Proof rather than this set if your budget is limited, or perhaps the full four-coin set if you can afford it and collect all sizes of these coins since those should sell out.
The other special eagle set is the “Silver Reverse Proof Two-Coin Set”, which presumably will include Type 1 and Type 2 American Silver Eagle Reverse Proof coins, and it appears one will be struck at West Point and the other at San Francisco. Again, we do not have a product or mintage limit yet, but this type of set typically has some kind of limit and usually sells out. In 2012 and 2013, sets of this type were minted to demand, which is possible for this year’s set.
But with the planchet shortage, a limited edition of some sort is more likely, as is a sell-out and aftermarket premium.
The final 2021 eagle products are the one-ounce silver and gold Burnished Uncirculated coins – the latest in a subset of the American Silver and Gold Eagle programs begun in 2006. To date, these coins have had mixed results in the market with only certain issues doing well like the 2006-W silver coin as the first of its type and the 2012-W gold coin because sales of it ended unexpectedly early and set what was a new mintage low at the time of 5,929 coins. That coin is basically tied with the 2017-W, and both sell for about $3,000.
The 2021-W Burnished silver will be released on September 9 and to date, no product or mintage limit is indicated so they will likely be minted to demand as in the past. A number of past issues, especially the 2018-W and 2019-W, sell for the same amount as the others but have mintages of about 138,000 and might be long-term winners. As for the 2021-W, it should sell well as the first Type 2 Burnished silver coin, which means it likely will not have a low mintage. Demand for the bullion and Proof coins is likely to be much stronger, but in the currently frenzied bullion market, this one might be a surprise winner.
The 2021-W Burnished gold to be released October 7 has a mintage and product limit of 9,100 coins, which is higher than sales of most past coins of this type. That number likely reflects the Mint’s optimism that buyers will want the first Type 2 Burnished gold, but sales are likely to be tempered by the combination of spot gold close to $2,000 an ounce and current premiums on such coins, which are steep. The 2020-W was last priced at $2,720 when gold was about $1,800, which gives potential buyers an idea of what to expect.
At that level, the gold Proofs, whose price should be about the same as that of the Burnished gold, seem like a much better buy. Plus, by the time this coin is launched buyers will have already purchased many other Type 2 coins and might be tapped out financially.
The second part of this piece will cover the rest of the products coming out this year from the U.S. Mint.
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Louis Golino is an award-winning numismatic journalist and writer, specializing primarily in modern U.S. and world coins. His work has appeared in CoinWeek since 2011. He also currently writes regular features for Coin World, The Numismatist, and CoinUpdate.com, and has been published in Numismatic News, COINage, and FUNTopics, among other coin publications. He has also been widely published on international political, military, and economic issues.
His column “The Coin Analyst”, special to CoinWeek, won the 2021 Numismatic Literary Guild (NLG) Award for Best Numismatic Column: United States Coins – Modern. In 2015, “The Coin Analyst” received an NLG award for Best Website Column. In 2017, he received an NLG award for Best Article in a Non-Numismatic Publication with his piece, “Liberty Centennial Designs”.
In October 2018, he received a literary award from the Pennsylvania Association of Numismatists (PAN) for his 2017 article, “Lady Liberty: America’s Enduring Numismatic Motif” that appeared in The Clarion.