100 Greatest U.S. Modern Coins Series: 1996 $1 American Silver Eagle

As we continue our journey through the 100 Greatest United States Modern Coins series as put together by Whitman Publishing, it would be safe to say that we will be talking about a number of different versions of one of the most popular silver bullion coins around the world: the American Silver Eagle. As we have already discussed three other versions of the United States coin so far, we are on our way to making it a fourth.

With authors Scott Schechter and Jeff Garrett in charge of this top 100 list in addition to the opinions of some of the most influential coin dealers across the country, we get into this American Silver Eagle entry further as the fourth and latest edition of the series has it towards the end of the list. However, it only makes sense that this ‘key date’ American Silver Eagle made the list as it has been talked about for years due to its mintage.

#80 - 1996 $1 American Silver Eagle

With 35 years in the books, the American Silver Eagle series is without question one of the most collected series in numismatics there is. Whether you collect them raw or certified, the modern coins are at their best when collected together. However, that is sometimes easier said than done, even when their mintages are in the tens of millions. But that has not always been the case and the 1996 American Silver Eagle bullion coin is proof.

For the first 20 years into the program, the 1996 issue of the popular bullion coin was considered a key date. Key dates generally mean that the coin is hard to come by which makes it more expensive when you do happen to encounter it. While the 1996 was eventually exceeded by the 2006 issue and more after that, it still continues its reign as a highly collectible year in the complete series. But why is the coin so rare?

In the mid to late 1990s, demand lessened for products from the United States Mint which included Silver Eagles. From 1994-1998, mintages tapered off and coins were made to order. The 1996 was included in that bunch and the Mint only ended up striking 3,603,386 bullion coins. This was around 600,000 less coins than were struck for any other date in the series. The years following would slowly start to climb higher and higher. While the number was not that far off from previous mintages, it was quickly noticed by the hobby as low and, in turn, how rare the coin would be. Dealers were supposedly stashing monster boxes full of the date knowing just how much they would be sought after in the later years. Today, these coins are sold at much higher premiums due to the scarcity of the 1996 issue even though the mid-1990s coins are prone to milk spots.

While this coin remains in the top 100, it has dropped a number of times in the list as the first edition ranked it at #67.