The American Gold Eagle Coin

What more can be said about the most popular U.S. Mint gold coin? The American Gold Eagle coin can be classified as an alloyed gold coin because it contains 91.7% gold with the remainder alloy of 5.33% copper and 3% silver. The American Gold Eagle can be classified with its ancestor the Krugerrand which has a similar gold content of 91.7%. The Gold Eagle coin weighs more than the pure gold coins such as the Canadian Maple Leaf, Britannia and American Buffalo because you are still being blessed with 1 oz fine gold. The copper and silver added to the one ounce increase the weight of the coin. 

The official gold bullion of the United States

In 1985 it became illegal for US citizens to buy Krugerrands. Krugerrands were the leading gold bullion coin and the U.S. its biggest market. It became difficult for Americans to invest in physical gold. The Gold Bullion Act of 1985 paved the way for the American Gold Eagle Coin.  The Gold Eagle was introduced in 1986. Under the Eagle Bullion Program, a method was introduced for Americans to conveniently and cost-effectively purchase gold. 

By enabling individuals to buy Gold Eagles the American gold industry was supported as well because the Gold Eagle coin is only allowed to include gold that is sourced from the United States. The other metals included may also not be sourced from foreign sources either. 

The weight, content and purity of the American Gold Eagle coin are guaranteed by the U.S. government. All the obstacles have been removed for U.S. citizens to buy their country’s own coin. The sales of the Gold Eagles were the highest in 1986 until 1998, even though the Gold Eagle was only introduced in October 1986. The Gold Eagles became an overall success and the best selling gold coin in the USA making up 80% of the U.S. gold bullion market. 

The American Gold Eagles features

The design of the American Gold Eagle which is esthetic and artistic has ensured that the coin became one of the most popular and iconic coins in the world.

The American Gold Eagle has an upset rim which makes it easier to stack the coin and reduce wear when handling. The edge is reeded. 

The predominant feature of the Gold Eagle is the beautiful depiction of the full-length forward-facing Lady Liberty. Although the coin is named the Eagle, what draws the most attention is the obverse with the gorgeous image of Lady Liberty.

The celebrated sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens was appointed by Theodore Roosevelt to redesign the image in 1905. The initials AG for Augustus Saint-Gaudens is located on the obverse but is only visible with a magnifying glass.

The Lady Liberty evolved over time from flowing hair of 1794 to today’s silver and gold American Eagles bearing the Lady in full-length.

The Obverse

american gold eagle coin from goldbroker

Lady Liberty dominates the obverse side of the coin. She is striding confidently forward walking on a mountain top. She symbolizes her role as leading the nation into a brighter future. She is dressed in robes and her loose long hair is flowing in the wind. Behind her are the rays of the rising sun. The U.S. Capitol is visible at the bottom left. 

In her right hand, she holds a flaming torch symbolizing the enlightenment that freedom brings.

In her left hand, she holds an olive branch symbolizing peace and victory. Her gaze is assured. 

The legend is the main inscription on the coin’s surface and on the American Gold Eagle coin, it reads “LIBERTY” above Lady Liberty’s head. 

The mint year is displayed towards the bottom right. From 1986 to 1992 the year is engraved in Roman-numeral dating. Since 1992 the coin bears the date in Arabic (standard) numbers.  

All around the edge of the face within the rim of the coin are 50 small stars depicting the states of America including Hawaii and Alaska.

The bullion American Gold Eagles do not contain a mintmark. The Burnished and Proof Eagles bear the “W” mint mark of the West Point Mint on the obverse of the coin.

The Reverse

american gold eagle reverse from goldbroker

The reverse features a family of Bald Eagles designed by Miley Busiek now Miley Tucker-Frost – The Bald Eagle is the national bird of the United States – irishgoldbullion. The design depicts the female eagle sitting in the family nest with her hatchlings safely under her protective wings. A male eagle approaching to land is featured above the nest with an olive branch in its talons. The birds represent the strength and importance of families. 


At the top curve engraved “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” 


The motto which is typically inspirational and emotionally stirring is prevalent on the reverse. The words, “E PLURIBUS UNUM” is to the left of the eagles and “IN GOD WE TRUST” to the right of the eagles. 


The coin specifications are at the bottom curve with the weight and face value of the coin – “1OZ. FINE GOLD-50 DOLLARS

The American Gold Eagle coin is a legal tender.

In the US the Gold Eagle coins are legal tender as they are stamped with a government-backed face value. In the case of the 1 oz Gold Eagle the face value is $50. The face value is important although it is not a reflection of the intrinsic value of the coin. The face value as legal tender of the coin ensures that it is classified as money and cannot, therefore, attract tax. This tax “status”  distinguishes the gold coin from other investment classes. It further ensures that the coin can more easily be internationally traded across borders.  

numismatic traders buy gold and silver any quantity

Why is the American Eagle regarded as a bullion coin?

Coins that are minted in bulk form are known as bullion. Bullion coins trade with a higher value than bullion bars, because of its aesthetic properties and limited quantity struck each year. 

The biggest factor in the value of bullion gold coins is it’s mass and purity rather than its face value. The value of bullion coins can be linked directly to the spot price of gold and its inherent gold content and purity. A premium is added to the gold value for the status of a particular coin in the market.

There is a strong market for collector versions and low mintages which carry a higher premium than pure bullion coins. Obsolete gold coins are primarily collected for their numismatic value – Wikipedia

The “four” corners of the American Gold Eagles.  

The Gold Eagle has been minted in four formats since its inception in 1986. 

  1. The Bullion Gold Eagle

    1998 bullion gold with blue background of numismatic traders

    The bullion Gold Eagle coins are struck in large quantities by the U.S. Mint. They are well struck with acceptable surface quality. Eagle bullion coins are not sold directly to the public but are rather distributed through a network of authorized dealers.

    The bullion Gold Eagles are more popular among investors for its gold value properties and due to the fact that they are sold for relatively small premiums over the gold spot price. These bullion coins are less sought after by collectors.

  2. Burnished Gold Eagle

    burnished gold eagle on blue numismatic traders background

    In order to satisfy the needs of collectors, the West Point Mint issued the Burnished Gold American Eagle in 2006. The coin presents the renowned “W” mint mark on its unique burnished finish. It is the lowest mintage coin of all the American Gold Eagle coins which give it a greater value well over the spot-price. It is many times referred to as an “Uncirculated Coin”.

    Burnish is a process whereby the coin blanks are thoroughly polished before individually hand-fed into the coining process resulting in a distinctive matte-like, frosted 3D appearance of the design floating above the contract of the deeply-mirrored background. The coin looks in a near-perfect condition that is beautiful and easily distinguishable from the normal bullion Gold Eagle coins.

    Each burnished coin contains the following features:
    – Struck from 22-karat gold;
    – A perfect SP-70 or near-perfect SP-69 grading by PCGS;
    – “W” Mintmark
    – Unique Serial Number.

  3. Proof Gold Eagle.

    proof gold eagle on numismatic traders background

    When a coin exhibits a higher than normal degree of reflectivity the coin is said to be prooflike. The Proof Gold Eagle is a specially made coin distinguished by sharpness of detail with a brilliant mirror-like surface – U.S. Mint.

    A proof mint is created by double striking the coin which is then handed polished. The end result is a high gloss coin with exceptional detail and sharp contrast.

    The proof coins are subjected to strict guidelines and meticulous processes that require labor-intensive practices. Therefore they are produced in much smaller quantities making the Proof Gold Eagle coin rarer and traded at much higher premiums than normal bullion coins.

  4. Reverse Proof Gold Eagle.

    reverse proof gold eagle on numismatic traders background

    The United States Mint produced its first reverse proof coins in 2006 with the American Gold Eagle Proof coin. – the sprute crafts. The reverse proof of the American Gold Eagle has to date only appeared once.

    A standard reverse proof coin is a coin featuring an “inverted” proof finish. The background field is frosted while the design elements are polished to a mirror-like finish creating a breathtaking contrast. What comes to mind is the same effect of a negative film role.

    On how reverse coins are made:

    Just like regular proof coins, the coin die is specially selected for its high quality. Instead of applying a frosting over the entire surface of the die, the die is polished to a high gloss finish. A computer-controlled laser frosting machine then scans the surface of the die to recognize the difference between the field and the devices. Once that is complete, the machine then uses its laser to apply a frosted finish only to the recessed device areas of the die. When the die is then used to strike the coin, the fields of the coin are frosted, and the devices have a mirrored finish”.

    The Spruce Crafts.

Gold Eagle Sizes minted

The American Gold Eagle Coin is issued in four size ranges:

  •  1 ounce gold coin has a nominal face value of $50;
  • ½ ounce gold coin has a nominal face value of $25;
  • ¼ ounce gold coin has a nominal face value of $10; 
  • 1/10 ounce gold coin has a nominal face value of $5.

The 1 ounce Gold Eagle is the same size as a US half dollar coin and the 1/10 oz Gold Eagle coin is roughly the same size as a U.S. dime

Product specifications of the 1 oz American Gold Eagle

  1. Gold content – 1 oz (Troy ounce).
  2. Gold purity – 91.67% gold, 5.33% copper, and 3% silver.
  3. Weight – 33.93 grams ( 1.0909 troy ounces).
  4. Diameter – 32.7 millimeters.
  5. Thickness – 2.87 millimeters.
  6. Face value – $50 backed by the U.S. government.
  7. Mint – U.S. Mint

Pros of the American Gold Eagle coin

  1. Esthetic Beauty.

    The American Gold Eagle is commonly referred to as the most beautiful coin in the world.

  2. American values.

    The Gold Eagle design is a timeless classic depicting iconic American values and symbols throughout its design on both sides of the coin.

  3. Backed by the United States Government.

    The coin has a face value of $50 and it is the official gold coin of the United States Treasury and has the status of legal tender. Gold Eagles are the largest component of the United States Treasury gold portfolio.

  4. Iconic coin.

    The American Gold Eagle has reached iconic status due to its popularity among the world’s coins for investors as well as collectors.

  5. Several finishes.

    There are four different finishes to choose from. This increases the desire to collect all the different finishes of the coin. The collector’s versions have low mintages which increase the value of the coin.

  6. Resilience against damage.

    The 22-carat gold content makes the coin more scuff resistant than the pure 99.9% or higher forms of bullion.

  7. Guaranteed specifications.

    Each coin contains an exact amount of gold which is governed by law and exclusively mined in America.

  8. Quality standards.

    The coin is produced under rigid quality standards of the U.S. Mint. The American Gold Eagles are struck with exceptional precision and careful attention to detail.

  9. Protective storage.

    The coins can be stored and protected with its easy space-saving treasury tubes.

Cons of the American Gold Eagle coin

  1. Gold value.

    The bullion coin’s value is directly linked to the spot price of gold. Fluctuations in the gold price can severely affect the value of the coin.

  2. Insurance.

    Insuring your bullion gold coins at their exact value may result in additional costs.

  3. Individual Retirement Account requirements.

    To qualify for IRA tax benefits the gold billion coins must be stored by an approved trustee. Keeping them in a safe is not allowed. 


In my opinion, the American Gold Eagle Coin is one of the most stupendous, breathtaking coins in the world. It is a coin I regularly admire for its esthetic beauty. This coin is not only beautiful but it also gives you various options in finishes as well as different sizes. The smaller Eagles are affordable and make ideal gifts for people of all ages. The Gold Eagle does not only serve as bullion but also attracts collectors. There is an active market for the Gold Eagles all over the world. The American Gold Eagle coin must be considered for inclusion in any gold portfolio.

6 thoughts on “The American Gold Eagle Coin”

  1. I think that the American girl eagle coin is a good coin and it is also worth being invested in because it seems to have a very long history. The fact that you can tell us more about how it works is also very good and I like it. Great information all-round.

    • Thank you the American Gold Eagle coin is a definite option when it comes to deciding about buying gold bullion. It was released after the Krugerrand and the Canadian Maple Leaf but this coin is certainly ranked among the top 5 gold bullion coins in the world. In 2021 when the new design is going to be released with advanced anti-counterfeiting security features, The Eagle is likely going to be a competitor in the “security” aspect as well and who knows maybe give the Canadian Maple Leaf a run for its money in terms of security. I have done a very interesting review of The Canadain Maple Leaf Gold coin as well. 

  2. It’s very thoughtful of you to share this article, there are lots of valuable coims that people are yet to know about or rather they don’t know of how precious it is. The American gold Eagle coin is very beautiful and the symbolism is a very interesting one, I look forward to see more of it.

    • Indeed Bruce. The American Gold Eagle coin is for me the most beautiful bullion coin available. Did you know that the reverse design is going to be replaced in 2021 with a new design featuring eagles? Are you looking forward to this change after 35 years?

  3. Thank you for sharing this here. Gold is an evergreen worthy investment to made and buying valuables such as this would be worthy investment in a long while. Though I own no coin but definitely been trying to work my way into the precious metal industry. What you have shared here is of immense value and I appreciate it a lot. Thanks for sharing here

    • You are welcome and thank you for your comment. Our strategy is to hold onto precious metals in the long run. Trading in precious metals requires a unique set of skills that is not for the fainthearted and can take years to accomplish. 

      If I may suggest getting into precious metals is to consider the American Silver Eagle coin. Even if you just buy one Silver Eagle, which is relatively cheap and easy to acquire. You can start the exercise by comparing the spot price vs the premium of the coin at roughly 7% premium. We display the current spot price on our home page. 


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