Posted on June 02, 2017
When the United States Mint launched the American Silver Eagle bullion coin program in 1986 at the San Francisco Mint, the Secretary of the Treasury reportedly had a sly comment ready to go. The Chicago Sun-Times reported at the time that James A. Baker III, Secretary of the Treasury, said “I don’t need a pick and shovel to start the San Francisco Silver Rush of 1986.”
During that first year of availability, the Silver Eagle bullion coin sold 5.393 million units. The following year saw 11.442 million coins produced. It would be another 21 years from 1987 until 2008 before that figure of 11.442 million would be met, much less topped. In the interim, the San Francisco Mint remained the coining home of the Silver Eagle.
From 1986 to 1998, the US Mint struck its popular Silver Eagle bullion coins at the San Francisco Mint. In 1999, production of the coins shifted to the Philadelphia Mint for a two-year stint. In 2001, the West Point Mint became the new home of the Silver Eagle coin, and there it remained (almost) exclusively. However, both San Francisco and Philadelphia have reemerged as production centers for the Silver Eagle.
The onset of the Great Recession sent silver prices soaring, and demand for the American Silver Eagle coin soared right along with it. Starting in 2008, mintage of the Silver Eagle bullion coin broke records with nearly every new release year. Mintage for the coins from 2008 until 2016 hit the following marks (* denotes a new yearly record):
The demand for the American Silver Eagle during this period of time became so intense that the US Mint was forced to suspend the production of its proof and burnished versions of the coin in 2009. In addition to running coining presses 24/7 just to keep up with demand for the bullion version of the coin, a shortage of silver globally made it difficult for the mint to sustain all three programs.
Starting in early 2011, the United States Mint recognized the need to provide supplemental coining support to the West Point Mint. Already pushed to the brink with American Gold Eagle, American Gold Buffalo, and American Silver Eagle bullion production, the mint is also home to the proof versions of all three coins and the burnished versions of the Gold Eagle and Silver Eagle, not to mention the American Platinum Eagle.
The San Francisco Mint, the original home of the Silver Eagle, ran test coining operations early in 2011 to prepare for its role in supplemental production of the Silver Eagle. Starting in 2015, the Philadelphia Mint also joined in the fray by coining bullion Silver Eagles. Between 2014 and early 2017, an estimated 17 million American Silver Eagle bullion coins were produced by the San Francisco and Philadelphia Mints to augment production at the West Point Mint.
Recently, the NGC and other outlets in the precious metals industry have cited information obtained through a Freedom of Information Act to try and attribute the Silver Eagles struck at these various mints. The US Mint at first balked at the idea of revealing the information, but released the data as a result of the FIA request. The NGC has since been able to attribute millions of coins to the San Francisco and Philadelphia Mints.
The attribution was completed by identifying the US Mint Monster Boxes the coins shipped in based upon serial numbers. In short, 2011-2013 West Point coins shipped “West Point Mint” straps, and subsequently (2014-current) shipped with six-digit serial numbers starting 1, 2, or 3.
San Francisco Mint coins had a “San Francisco Mint” strap from 2011-2014, and six-digit serial numbers starting with the number 4 in 2016 and 2017. Philadelphia Mint coins, meanwhile, had five-digit serial numbers in 2015 starting with 1, and six-digit serial numbers starting at 5 in 2016 and 2017.
Of particular interest from this attribution process was the incredibly low mintage of 2015 American Silver Eagle coins at the Philadelphia Mint. Just 79,640 coins were struck by the coining presses in Philadelphia during that first year. Subsequent figures stand at 1.51 million in 2016 and 1 million for 2017.
As a result of the information obtained in the FIA request, the 2015 (P) American Silver Eagle Coin has emerged as a uniquely rare bullion coin in the collection. In addition to only a handful of mintage years at Philadelphia, the extremely low mintage of just 79,640 coins from the Philadelphia Mint makes these coins the rarest bullion coins in the 30-plus year history of the Silver Eagle series!
To be clear, these American Silver Eagle coins are still bullion specimens and do not feature a “P” mint mark from the Philadelphia Mint. JM Bullion currently has these unique coins available to purchase with certifications from the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation on our website.
In recent days, the United States Mint issued a statement refuting the use of “rare” in the promotion and pricing (in some cases) of the 2015 (P) American Silver Eagle. The US Mint is not disputing in its statement that the San Francisco Mint and Philadelphia Mint participate in the production of American Silver Eagle bullion coins.
What the Mint’s statement did highlight was the homogeneous nature of the Silver Eagle bullion program. The US Mint noted that its “goal is to ensure that the American Eagle silver bullion coins struck at any of these three facilities are identical and indistinguishable from one another.”
Again, there are no mint marks on these coins nor distinguishing visible characteristics. However, that doesn’t take away from the rarity of the 2015 American Silver Coins attributed to production at the Philadelphia Mint facility.
There were roughly 108 million American Silver Eagle coins struck at the West Point Mint since 2014. Of those 108 million coins, just 79,640 of those coins were produced in Philadelphia during the 2015 production cycle.
American Silver Eagle bullion coins are available from numerous years of production courtesy of JM Bullion. Take a moment to view our entire catalog of silver coins for sale, and watch for the NGC and PCGS certified versions of the 2015 (P) American Silver Eagle.