The American Silver Eagle is the official silver bullion coin of the United States. It was first released by the United States Mint on November 24, 1986. It is struck only in the 1 troy oz denomination which has a nominal face value of one dollar and is guaranteed to contain one troy ounce of 99.9% pure silver. It is authorized by the United States Congress and its weight and content is certified by the United States Mint. The American Silver Eagle bullion coin may be used to fund Individual Retirement Account investments. The United States Mint also produces a proof version for coin collectors. The Silver Eagle has been produced at three mints. One is the Philadelphia mint, and some of those issued there carry a "P" mintmark. In the early years of the series, the San Francisco mint issued proofs and these bear an "S". More recent proofs are from the mint at West Point, New York. The latter have a "W" on the reverse.
The design on the obverse was taken from the classic "Walking Liberty" design by Adolph A. Weinman, which had originally been used on the half-dollar coin of the United States from 1916 to 1947. As this iconic design had been a public favorite -and indeed one most beloved designs of any United States coinage of modern times, silver or otherwise- it was revived for the Silver Eagle decades later. The reverse portrays a heraldic eagle designed by John Mercanti.
Mintages, and thus prices, of uncirculated and proof specimens have varied widely, and the potential collector is advised to check a standard reference book before buying them. Generally the business strikes have minted in the millions, while the proofs were issued in the hundreds of thousands. Thus, most dates are not particularly expensive at around $23 each, although some of the early 1990s proofs sell for over $100 (1993 for example). Also, the special 1995W issue (30,125 sold) is worth several thousand dollars. The 2006 Silver Eagle 20th Anniversary boxed set, with uncirculated, proof, and the previously-unreleased reverse proof pieces, had a maximum mintage of 250,000 and quickly sold out from the Mint at a catalog price of $100. As of January 2008 it was selling for over $350.