Raw and Certified Burnished Silver Eagles

Raw and Certified Burnished Silver Eagles

The US Mint has produced 3 types of American Silver Eagles: Brilliant Uncirculated, Proof, and Burnished. The Brilliant Uncirculated and Proof coins made their first appearance in 1986 but it would be 20 years later when the Burnished versions would be minted for the American Silver Eagle 20th Anniversary. A Burnished American Silver Eagle is a silver eagle minted at the West Point Mint and carries the "W" mint-mark. Burnished Silver Eagles have also undergone a minting process very similar to the proof silver eagles. Unless certified, Burnished American Silver Eagles will be packaged in government issues presentation boxes.

Design of the Burnished American Silver Eagle

The Walking Liberty is one of the most known figures of US currency and is featured on the obverse of every American Silver Eagle. Lady Liberty was first designed for the half dollar in 1916-1947 but since it received such acclaim, the US Mint decided to resurrect the design for their first silver bullion coin collection. Adolph A. Weinman, an American sculptor who was born in Germany, was chosen to design the obverse for the Walking Liberty half-dollar. What he didn't know was how popular his design would remain 40 years later. Weinman's take on Lady Liberty resembles a Grecian god, who is wrapped in a light-weight robe and is delicately fluttering in the wind to enhance her femininity.

The reverse contains the US seal, which is of a large eagle with several different representations. Both of the eagle's talons are holding onto something; the left contains olive branches to represent peach and the other talon is holding arrows to represent warrior. The eagle is covered by a huge shield that indicates that the US will protect its power and "E Pluribus Unum" is written across the eagle's outstretched wings. The coin's weight and purity is also stamped on the reverse for authentication purposes.

Striking Process for the Burnished American Silver Eagle

The US Mint conducts the minting process for the Burnished Silver Eagle similarly to the Proof Silver Eagle's process. The blanks used, for the Burnished coins, are polished by millions of 6mm little balls before the coin is actually struck. The smoothing of the blank accomplishes a visually brilliant surface with matted features. These refined blanks are handled with white gloves and placed into the striking machine. Finally, the newly Burnished coins are packaged in their presentation boxes with their Certificates of Authenticity included.

Certified Burnished American Silver Eagles

As most coin collectors and numismatists know, a coin can be a considered brilliant uncirculated or proof, but that's just the beginning of identifying a coin's value. Dr. William Sheldon was an American psychologist by trade and a numismatist as a hobby. In 1948, Sheldon developed the Sheldon Numeric Scale, which became the foundation of grading and certifying coins. The Sheldon Numeric Scale dictates that a coin's condition can fall between 1 and 70. Before this groundbreaking system, coins were graded mostly by physical appearance and could receive one of three grades.

When purchasing a Certified Burnished American Silver Eagle, there is information provided on the coin holder that is important to know. The first thing to notice is the coin's strike type:

  • MS: Short for "Mint-State;" refers to coins that have never been in circulation and are the same condition as when they were originally produced. Mint State coins will receive a grade ranging from 60-70 on the Sheldon Numeric Scale.
  • SP: A "specimen" coin is a combination of strike type (somewhere in the middle of Mint State and Proof).

A Certified American Silver Eagle (or any certified bullion coin) will most likely come in one of two grades:

  • MS69: Bullion coins that have kept their original mint luster and contain zero post production flaws.
  • MS70: Bullion coins that contain 2 or less minute imperfections but still carry their original mint luster.

Other certification terms often used for bullion coins:

  • First Strike: PCGS term designates coins that have been certified within the first 30 days of production by the contributing mint.
  • Early Release: NGC term designates coins that have been certified within the first 30 days of production by the contributing mint.
  • UCAM/DCAM: Shortened for Ultra-Cameo and Deep-Cameo, these terms refer to the coin's visual brilliance that is apparent on the surface by an unyielding, frosted finish and a deeply mirrored background luster.

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