The Silver American Eagle coin program began its tenure in 1986 after Congress authorized the series via the "Liberty Coin Act.” Passed into law in July of 1985, the Liberty Coin Act dictates specifications for the then-newly authorized Silver Eagle strikes, such as weight, metal contents, and design features. According to the law, Silver American Eagles must weigh 31.103 grams and contain .999 fine silver, in addition to featuring a design on its obverse that is “symbolic of Liberty” and an eagle on its reverse.
Last year, the famed and much beloved Silver American Eagle (along with its gold counterpart) were released for the first time with a brand-new reverse design, in addition to an “enhanced” obverse design, as the Mint describes it.
The Silver American Eagle’s new reverse motif was created by United States Mint Artistic Infusion Program Designer Emily Damstra and was sculpted by retired Mint Medallic Artist Michael Gaudioso. Damstra’s reverse features a dynamic American eagle that appears to be coming in for a landing while carrying an oak branch, presumably to add to its family’s nest below. The bird is depicted in strikingly nuanced detail, adding to this new design's impact on the viewer. The image includes the typical reverse-side inscriptions for the Silver Eagle, with “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” lining the left edge of the coin and the coin’s “ONE DOLLAR” face value and “1 OZ. FINE SILVER” contents lining the right. The motto found of the Great Seal of the United States – “E PLURIBUS UNUM,” which means, “Out of many, one” – lines the inner right edge of the coin, while the “S” mint mark, indicating production at the San Francisco Mint, the designer’s initials, “ESD,” and the sculptor’s initials, “MG,” form triangular points around the bottom half of the eagle.
The obverse side of the coin features an updated iteration of Adolph A. Weinman’s classic early 20th-century Walking Liberty design, which has graced the “heads side” of the Silver American Eagle since its launch in 1986. As the Mint notes, its team leveraged "technological advancements in the design and minting process" that enabled the obverse imagery to now encompass "some of Weinman's original details that were not previously possible.” Additionally, this technology also allowed for the “traditional artist mark,” which appears as an intertwined “AW,” to now be included on the obverse. Weinman’s Walking Liberty motif sets a glorious scene that exudes elegance, grace, and pride. Lady Liberty is shown striding confidently forward, stretching her right arm out toward a brilliantly beaming sun rising over the horizon. She cradles a bundle of laurel and oak branches in her left arm as a billowing American flag wraps around her shoulders. The standard inscriptions also appear on this front side of the coin: the nation's official motto, “IN GOD WE TRUST,” Weinman’s artist mark, the coin’s strike year, and the word “LIBERTY,” which is spaced out in large, all-caps letters along the top edge of the coin.