The American Eagle Bullion Coin: A Historical Journey

Author: Connor Campbell - Bullion & Economics Editor

Published: 20 Jun 2023

Last Updated: 23 Jun 2023


Uncover the glittering tale of the American Eagle Bullion Coin series, spanning centuries of gold denominations and compositions. Learn about the captivating twists of history, from the Great Depression's gold ownership restrictions to the triumphant repeal and the rise of the iconic American Eagle Gold coin. We invite you to join us on this exhilarating numismatic adventure!

Key Takeaways

  • The bald eagle was chosen as the national bird of the United States due to its symbolism of strength, freedom, and grace.
  • Dating back to the 18th century, the American Eagle Bullion Coin series emerged, featuring a range of denominations and compositions of gold.
  • As a response to the Great Depression in the 1920s, Executive Order 6102 was enacted, placing limitations on the ownership of gold by American citizens.
  • The Gold Reserve Act of 1934 revalued gold to $35 per ounce and eventually led to the repeal of gold ownership restrictions.
  • American Gold Eagles are favored by investors for their weight, purity, gold content, and exemption from VAT.
  • The American Eagle Gold coin gained significance and popularity among collectors and investors after the Gold Bullion Coin Act of 1985.
  • Chards Coin and Bullion Dealer is recommended as a reliable source for purchasing American Eagle Bullion Coins.

The National Bird of USA

Before we delve into the history of the American Eagle Bullion Coin series, it is worth pondering why the bald eagle was chosen to represent the United States of America. The rationale behind this selection can be found in the profound symbolism and historical significance associated with this remarkable bird.

Dating back to 1782, the bald eagle earned the esteemed title of the national bird of the United States. This distinction came about when it was immortalised, with its wings outstretched, on the Great Seal of America's country. As an enduring symbol of strength, freedom, and grace, the bald eagle has since become an integral part of America's identity. Solidifying its position as the most frequently depicted avian creature in the United States, the bald eagle can be observed on numerous U.S. federal agencies, the U.S. presidential flag, and even gold coins dating back to 1787.

The 1787 Brasher Doubloon is renowned as the first gold coin ever minted in the United States. Engraved by Ephraim Brasher in 1787, five years before the establishment of the federal mint, it holds historical significance.

Seal that appears on the US Dollar

Bald Eagle Symbolism

The United States Department of Veterans Affairs define the symbolism of the Bald Eagle as:

The fierce beauty and proud independence of this great bird aptly symbolises the strength and freedom of America. (Source)

Additionally, the 35th U.S. President, John F. Kennedy, wrote a letter to the Audubon Society, an American non-profit environmental organisation dedicated to the conservation of birds and their habitats.

The Founding Fathers made an appropriate choice when they selected the bald eagle as the emblem of the nation. The fierce beauty and proud independence of this great bird aptly symbolises the strength and freedom of America. But as latter-day citizens we shall fail our trust if we permit the eagle to disappear.

Pre 1933 American Eagle Bullion Coins

The intriguing origin of the American Eagle Bullion Series can be traced back to the 18th century. It was during the significant year of 1792 that this remarkable coin first emerged, presenting a diverse range of options for collectors and enthusiasts alike. The initial offerings included:

  • The Original Gold American Eagle
  • Gold Quarter Eagle
  • Gold Half Eagle
  • Gold Double Eagle

These distinctive coins were available in various denominations: $10, $2.50, $5, and $20, respectively. Notably, during this period, the coins were crafted under the crown gold standard, signifying their composition of 22-carat gold.

However, as time progressed and the United States shifted away from the crown gold standard in 1834, modifications were made to the American Eagle Bullion Series. These alterations resulted in a reduction of the gold content, which settled at a purity level of 0.900 gold content.

Pre 1933 American Double Eagle Bullion Coin

Great Depression (1929-39)

Global GDP Decline - 26.7% & Peak global unemployment 24.9% (1933)

In 1929, the USA experienced a profound economic depression that endured for a decade. This devastating period was triggered by the stock market crash and the subsequent collapse of Wall Street. Recognising the urgent need to shield the banks from the early impacts of this crisis, Franklin D. Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the United States, commonly known as FDR, took action. On the 5th of April, 1933, he issued a significant law known as Executive Order 6102.

This law aimed to address the economic turmoil by imposing certain restrictions on the ownership of gold by American citizens. It stipulated that, as per the law, individuals could not possess gold except for specified items of jewelry and family heirlooms. The intention behind this measure was to control the circulation of gold and safeguard the financial system during those challenging times. A similar measure was also implemented in the UK in 1966, indicating a shared response to economic uncertainties.

FDR in the Oval Office

Revaluation to $35 Per Ounce

The Gold Reserve Act, enacted on January 30th, 1934, brought about a significant alteration in the nominal price of gold. It raised the price from $20.67 per troy ounce to $35.00 per troy ounce. It is often asserted by certain American coin sellers that gold was revalued immediately following the 'confiscation,' but in reality, the official price remained unchanged for nearly 10 months after that event.

Over the course of time, commencing in the 1960s, the Gold Reserve Act of 1934 underwent a repeal. This progressive dismantling of the act granted Americans the freedom to once again engage in the unrestricted buying, selling, and investment of gold. Consequently, this pivotal era marked the reawakening of the American Eagle, as it embarked on a remarkable journey of revival and regained its significance among collectors and investors.

Resolution of the Great Depression

The resolution of the Great Depression signified a momentous shift for the United States, enabling the nation to transition away from the gold standard and embrace the utilisation of paper currency. As a result of this transformation, an unintended consequence emerged, causing a gradual scarcity of gold coins in circulation throughout the mid-20th century. Consequently, collectors have shown particular interest in pre-1933 American Eagles for this very reason.

The Gold Bullion Coin Act of 1985

Following two significant events - the Great Depression and the issuance of Executive Order 6102 in 1933 - a notable development took place. In 1985, Ronald Reagan, the 40th President of the United States, enacted a law that granted the U.S. Treasury the authority to commence the production of fresh bullion coins.

The introduction of these new coins entailed their production utilising fine gold sourced from newly established U.S. minting locations. Each coin was imprinted with its gold content and the corresponding face value. This legislation played a pivotal role in elevating the status of the American Eagle Gold coin, propelling it to become one of the most sought-after gold bullion coins globally, and particularly in the United States of America.

Ronald Reagan, the 40th President of the United States

American Gold Eagle (1986 - Present)

The obverse of the American gold eagle displays an illustration of Lady Liberty, created by the renowned American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gauden. This design portrays Liberty holding a torch in her right hand and an olive branch in her left hand. The engraver's initials, ASG, can be seen in raised letters below the year date, to the right of the figure.

Conversely, the reverse side of the coin featured a design by Miley Busiek, which was used from 1986 until 2021. This design showcased a male eagle clutching an olive branch in its talons, positioned above a nest containing a female eagle and her hatchlings. However, in 2021, the US Mint introduced a new design for the back side, featuring a close-up portrait of a bald eagle's head sculpted by Jennie Norris and Renata Gordon.

2023 Gold Eagle 1 oz Bullion Coin


American Silver Eagle (1986 - Present)

Following on from the success of the gold eagle, the US Mint decided to introduce a silver version in 1986. The American Silver Eagle is the official silver bullion coin of the United States with a face value of $1.

1986 1 oz Silver Coin Eagle Bullion

For Investors & Collectors 

Why Should Gold Investors Invest in American Gold Eagles?

Since its initial minting in 1986, these coins have gained significant popularity and are now considered one of the top Gold Bullion options for investors worldwide. A key factor contributing to their appeal among American investors is the assurance provided by the United States Government regarding the coin's weight, purity, gold content, and exemption from VAT.

Why Should Gold Coin Collectors Invest in American Gold Eagles?

The coin possesses an appealing aesthetic and holds legal tender status while also being highly portable. Within the collecting and investing community, the 1-ounce coins have unquestionably risen as the most favored option. However, those who embarked on their collections in 1986 might express a wish to complete their assortments by acquiring Gold coins of lower denominations. It is worth noting that the ½ ounce and ¼ ounce Gold Eagle coins, distinguished by their limited production quantities, have gradually become scarcer over time. As a result, their rarity has significantly enhanced their desirability among collectors and investors.

Best Place to Buy American Eagle Bullion Coins

Chards Coin and Bullion Dealer proudly offers an extensive selection of gold eagles and silver eagles, encompassing a wide range that spans from pre-1933 editions to the modern-day 2023 gold American Eagle bullion coin.

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