The American Gold Eagle is an official gold bullion coin of the United States. Authorized under the Gold Bullion Coin Act of 1985, it was first released by the United States Mint in 1986 and has been produced in large numbers ever since. Offered in 1/10 oz, 1/4 oz, 1/2 oz, and 1 oz denominations, these coins are authorized by the United States Congress and guaranteed by the U.S. government to contain the stated amount of actual gold weight in troy ounces. By law, the gold must come from sources in America, alloyed with silver and copper to produce a more wear-resistant coin.
While most gold bullion coins are struck in fine gold (0.999), including the US Mints own Gold Buffalo bullion coin, the Eagle is struck in crown gold, an old English standard more commonly known today as 22 karat. It’s a fineness shared with another old stalwart, the South African Krugerrand. Crown gold fell out of use in the US in 1834 as they moved to 0.900 fineness in 1837. The American Gold Eagle marked the reintroduction of 22kt gold with its fineness of 0.9167.
One of the biggest selling gold coins in the world, it still doesn’t enjoy the dominance its silver sibling has. Competitors such as the Canadian Maple Leaf, the Austrian Philharmoniker and the South African Krugerrand all enjoy sales numbers in the same range or higher. Some important markets buy other other coins where tax laws favour purer gold, like Canada for example. It does remain however, an important indicator of market conditions in bullion form.
This is a super looking coin, based on a century old design, thus evoking a sense of continuity in American financial history. From its debut in 1986 it has changed in nothing more than the minutist detail, so while it’s a coin we’d recommend anyone to have an example of, it isn’t really one to evoke collectors interest in having a new one every year. It’s a similar problem to the aformentioned trio of competitors and the reason for the popularity of bullion coin series with annually changing designs. The Royal Mint understood this when the Britannia stopped changing and remained with the 1987 Philip Nathan design. They had the foresight to compensate with their Shengxiao Lunar and Queens Beasts gold bullion ranges. Equally the Royal Canadian Mint offers interesting alternatives to the ubiquitous Maple. There’s no such alternative from the US Mint as their Buffalo range also has a fixed design. Sadly, the US Mint is constrained tightly by the US government and lacks the flexibility to rapidly innovate like its competitors, so don’t expect more gold bullion variety in the near future. Irrespective of that, this remains a design classic with a long numismatic history.