The History of the American Gold Eagle

If you are a serious collector in the hobby, more than likely you own one or more of the following designs: Morgan Silver Dollar, Lincoln Wheat Cent, Buffalo Nickel, American Silver Eagle, and a Gold American Eagle. The latter two are still being produced today and are quite possibly the most popular collector coins to date. The American Gold Eagle though piques the interest of investors the most and is the pivotal coin to have when looking to buy gold.

The Pre-1933 American Gold Eagle Coin

The original Gold American Eagle coin actually dates way back to the early 1790s. How can that be you say? They took form in the Quarter Eagle ($2.5), Half Eagle ($5), and Double Eagle ($20) although its original value was $10.

However, in 1933, the Great Depression took its toll and the United States government decided to remove itself from the gold standard. President Franklin D. Roosevelt then signed Executive Order 6102 on April 5th which forbade “the Hoarding of Gold Coin, Gold Bullion, and Gold Certificates.” The Gold Reserve Act quickly followed in 1934 which made it illegal for United States citizens to own private gold. These events resulted in the discontinuing of the Gold American Eagle during the 20th century.

The Reemergence of the Gold American Eagle

Congress was adamant about bringing back an American gold coin in the early 1980s. It was not until 1985 that President Ronald Reagan signed into the law the Gold Bullion Coin Act which changed the precious metal market forever. With a persistent Congress, the Gold American Eagle was at the top of the heap when it came to United States Mint production. Both the Gold and Silver American Eagle program began in 1986 and the first coins were produced and sold as their popularity soared. Another reason for its popularity other than the newness of an American gold coin since 1933 was that the law also included a clause that required that the gold used to produce the gold coins was to be mined within the United States. An American Gold Eagle coin would truly be just that: American.

The Design

The most interesting thing about the Gold American Eagle coin is that the design features both new and old elements. The obverse design on the coin is a revised version of Augustus Saint-Gauden’s design of the $20 Gold St. Gaudens coin as it features Lady Liberty holding a torch as she walks forward.

The reverse of the American Gold Eagle coin, however, was designed by Miley Tucker-Frost (Busiek), a modern American sculptor. The reverse features a depicting of a male eagle holding an olive branch. The male is flying overhead a female and her nest filled with hatchlings

The only changes that have been made to the design since its first production in 1986 are on the obverse. From 1986-1991, the years are shown in Roman numerals. From 1992 until now, the date is shown with Arabic numerals.

Sizes of the American Gold Eagle can currently be found in one ounce with a $50 face value, a half-ounce coin which has a $25 denomination, a quarter ounce with a $10 denomination, and a tenth-ounce that has a $5 face value. The coins are produced and minted from the U.S. Mint’s branch in West Point, New York, and are made from 22-karat gold. This means that 91.67% of the coin is pure gold while the remainder of the percentage is made from silver and copper. Although this seems like a disadvantage, it is quite the opposite as the lower percentage allows for the coin to last longer than those struck in 99.999% gold.


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