United States Mint Chief Engraver Series: John M. Mercanti

In today’s current market tailored to labels, labels and more labels when it comes to PCGS or NGC holdered coins, there is only one name that stands out among the rest: John M. Mercanti.

Born in Philadelphia, it was there that Mercanti received all the artistic training he would need to become one of the most known chief engravers there has ever been as he attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the Philadelphia College of Art, and the Fleisher Art Memorial School. In 1974, Mercanti began working at the United States Mint as a sculptor-engraver under another well-known chief engraver, Frank Gasparro. Finally in 2006, Mercanti was named the 12th Chief Engraver of the United States and held the title until 2010 when he retired with nearly 40 years under his belt at the United States Mint.

Under his tenure at the US Mint, Mercanti was responsible for some of the most important coinage and medal designs in history including what he is most known for: American Silver Eagles. Alongside silver Eagles, gold and silver commemoratives are also notable in his resumè as they honor some of the most important representations of American history like the Statue of Liberty, the Olympic Games, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and the Smithsonian Institution. In addition, Mercanti has designed congressional gold medals, circulated state quarters and a number of medals in commemorative and bullion form.

Silver American Eagle Program

First introduced in October of 1986, the Silver American Eagle bullion program was authorized and signed into legislation under the Liberty Coin Act in 1985 by then-President Ronald Reagan. Due to silver mining interests within the United States as well as the government wanting a way to sell silver and other precious metals from the Defense National Stockpile Center (a branch of the Defense Logistics Agency which was created to sell, secure, and store raw materials), the first American Silver Eagle was struck at a special ceremony in San Francisco.

Containing one troy ounce of .999 pure fine silver, the $1 denomination legal tender silver American Eagle has an obverse depicting an updated version of Adolph A. Weinman’s Walking Liberty Half Dollar design that circulated between 1916 and 1947. The reverse, designed by Mercanti, features a heraldic eagle with 13 stars above representing the original 13 colonies. The introduction of the silver American Eagle in 1986 has since seen a release every year within the bullion edition program. A proof Eagle was also created in 1986 and offered every year by the US Mint except for 2009.

An additional American Silver Eagle program was introduced in 2006 as special coins were released as uncirculated with a mint mark on the reverse through 2008 and then again in 2011 as the US Mint once again decided not to release these special struck coins in 2009 and 2010. Since the inception of the design, coins have been minted in Philadelphia (the mother mint), West Point and San Francisco as well as special anniversary editions created to commemorate the government issued coin such as the 2006 20th Anniversary Silver Eagle Set that included the first ever reverse proof coin.

Mercanti’s contribution to the Silver American Eagle program has launched the coin into being one of the most sought after silver bullion pieces to date as over 400 million ounces have been sold since 1986. Between bullion editions and the multitude of collector versions of the coin over its 30+ years of production, the Silver American Eagle is known all over the world and is available in numerous numismatic channels.

(Sources: www.coinworld.com; Miles Standish Presents: American Silver Eagles by John Mercanti with Michael “Miles” Standish)

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