Since its launch in 1986, the Gold American Eagle Proof coin has featured the “Family of Eagles” motif designed by Miley Busiek Frost and sculpted by Sherl J. Winter on its reverse side. The 2021 Type 2 issue marks the first time in the program's 35-year history that the coin underwent a design transition.
The new reverse design, created by U.S. Mint Artistic Infusion Program member Jennie Norris, is a striking close-up portrait of an American eagle – a starkly different take on the eagle concept than Busiek’s familial scene. To inspire her concept, Norris drew on her experience as a volunteer raptor handler and her “deep connection with wildlife,” the Mint noted in a press release. The artist elaborated, remarking that, “The American Eagle is such a noble bird. I was hoping to capture the intensity of his stare through the close cropping. His gaze speaks of pride and wisdom passed down through generations of time.”
While Norris’s eagle image is not depicted with such overt movement as Busiek’s design, which showed an in-flight eagle and two other eagles huddled together in a nest below, this second motif is somehow still quite dynamic. The captivating gaze of the mighty bird does indeed leave the viewer with the impression of a living, breathing creature, thanks to the design’s impressive and life-like detail.
The new eagle portrait is surrounded by the standard Gold American Eagle reverse inscriptions – "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" to the top, mirrored by the coin’s face value and weight and finesse of its gold contents to the bottom (specific to each of the four individual denominations). A set of three five-point stars appear on both the right and left edges of the coin’s reverse design, separating the inscriptions seen along the top and bottom. Above the bird’s head appear the motto of the Seal of the United States, “E PLURIBUS UNUM” – meaning, “Out of many, one” – and the nation’s motto, “IN GOD WE TRUST,” inscribed on two lines. The designer’s initials appear under the eagle’s neck, while the sculptor’s initials appear just above.
The coin's obverse continues to bear a replica of Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ full-length depiction of Lady Liberty that first appeared on the U.S. $20 gold double eagle coin in 1907. The image shows a dynamic image of Liberty walking forward in full stride, hair and dress billowing behind her in the wind. She holds a torch high into the air with her right hand and grasps an olive branch in her left hand. The U.S. Capitol building appears in the distance behind her while a beaming sun rises over the horizon. While the general image remains unchanged for the 2021 Type 2 release, the Mint notes in its product description that the team “returned to its original historical assets in 2020 to render a closer reflection of Saint-Gaudens’ original vision and detail,” elaborating that “legacy details have been restored for the obverse design to include modifications to the Capitol Building, stars, torch, sun rays, and other design elements based on the original bronze cast.” More specifically, the Mint points out that Liberty’s eyes are now more subtle on the 2021 Type 2 issue and enhanced with a “stronger effect,” the shape of the sun’s rays in the background are “restored,” Saint-Gaudens’ initials are included, and the olive branch motif is “restored.”
In addition to these obverse enhancements, the Mint further notes that the one-ounce issue of the 2021 Gold American Eagle Type 2 Proof coin will feature a reeded edge variation for anti-counterfeiting purposes.
2021 $50 Gold American Eagle Type 2 proof coin
Independently graded in perfect Proof 70 by NGC
Obverse: Lady Liberty walking with a torch and olive branch - design based off the 1907 Saint-Gaudens
Reverse: A striking close-up portrait of an American eagle (BRAND NEW DESIGN)