Posted on July 07, 2017
In June 2017, the United States Mint released both its 2017 American Gold Eagle and American Silver Eagle Uncirculated coins. The popular collector coins are a partner to the proof coins in the series, with a unique twist that gives them a different visual appearance. Often referred to as the “burnished” coins in the collection, as the latest version of this popular collector item arrives form the mint, it’s worth taking a look at the process that sets these coins apart.
The United States Mint did not introduced the uncirculated, or burnished, American Eagle coins in gold and silver until the 20th anniversary of the American Gold Eagle coin series in 2006. Aimed directly at numismatists who collect and display or exhibit their beloved American Eagles, the burnished coins are struck using a special coining process that is similar to the one used in the production of proof coins.
When it comes to the Burnished American Silver and Gold Eagles, one of the most intensive coining processes in the world is followed. On the surface, the production process of the burnished coin is similar to that of the proof coin. Both products are struck with an eye toward producing a coin with refined visual features and sharper rims. Dig a little deeper though, and you’ll find that the Burnished American Eagle coin undergoes a more specialized striking process to ensure the coin’s visual brilliance is beyond reproach.
The striking of a Burnished American Eagle starts with unique blanks, also known as planchets. These blanks start out as the same blanks used for the production of the proof version of the American Eagle. The blanks are loaded into a rotating drum before striking to undergo a polishing process. Large volumes of blanks are placed in the drum with a polishing media. Historically, wet sand was used by mints to polish blanks for the production of burnished coins. Today however, the US Mint uses millions of tiny 6 mm balls to polish the blanks.
Continued friction caused by the rotation of the drum and the collision of blanks and balls creates the smooth, matte-like surface found on the burnished coins. Once the rotating drum is done polishing the Burnished American Eagle blanks, each one is removed individually by hand by US Mint handlers wearing white gloves. This is done to avoid defacing the coin’s surface with oils and dirt from human skin. The blanks are then individually loaded into the striking machine to produce the stunning look of the American Eagle. The coins are then removed by gloved hands, inspected, and immediately packaged in plastic slabs and shipped with a Certificate of Authenticity.
Although the Burnished American Eagles undergo a similar coining process to proof coins, the appearance of these coins is often compared more closely to that of the bullion coin in the series. The polishing process the coins go through before striking, along with the higher pressures used in the coining process, leaves each coin with a softly frosted appearance. The process also creates a more detailed appearance to the design features, such as Lady Liberty and the bald eagles on the reverse.
The design set of each coin has a frosted finish that gives it the appearance of floating above the background field of the coin, which is deeply-mirrored. Another major distinguishing characteristic for the casual observer is the presence of a mint mark on the Burnished American Eagle. While the bullion coins do not feature a mint mark, all Burnished American Eagles have a “W” mint mark to identify the West Point Mint as the production facility.
Since its introduction in 2006, the Burnished American Eagle has seen irregular production during its 12-year existence. When the coins were first struck and released, the burnished coin was available in all four weights for the Gold Eagle and the 1 oz Silver Eagle weight.
By the time burnished gold eagles entered the program, the 1 oz. and 1/10 oz. coins had become the most popular in both the bullion and proof versions. As such, in the first year of production roughly two-thirds of Burnished American Gold Eagles produced were either 1 oz. (45,053) or 1/10 oz. (20,643). For the next two years, the 1/10 oz. coin was the favored weight in the series. The 1/10 oz. coin was struck in almost double the number of the other two fractional-weight coins, and outpaced the 1 oz. by roughly four-thousand coins.
In 2009, as with the proof version, the burnished coin was not produced by the US Mint in any weights. The Burnished American Gold Eagle was also halted in 2010, before returning in 2011. Since 2011, the Burnished American Gold Eagle has only been available in a 1 oz. weight, and the mintage numbers have been roughly 1/5 of the original mintage levels in 2006. The Burnished American Silver Eagle remains available in its 1 oz weight.
The Burnished American Eagle coins are a popular item each year among collectors, but are struck in extremely low numbers annually. Keep an eye on our catalog of gold and silver coins for sale to get your 2017 Burnished American Eagle coins when they become available!