The 1986 American Gold Eagle: An American Classic
With so many different countries now offering their own gold bullion coins in an effort to claim their market share of the South African Krugerrand market, the US decided to enter the market in 1986. The United States Mint came out with the Gold Eagle as the first gold bullion coin ever created by the US. While sales of this incredibly beautiful coin did not start until October of the inaugural year, they sold in record numbers. In fact, it was not until 1998 that this sales record was finally broken. The Gold Eagle was offered in 1/10, 1/4, 1/2 and 1-ounce weights, which seems to be the same as most of the other countries issue. The only exceptions were Australia with eight different sizes of their Gold Nugget and China with its Gold Panda, China now offers only the five basic weights although they have changed the face values on their Pandas. Over the years it has been the largest and the smallest denominations that have been the biggest sellers.
Perhaps this is indicative of the wide span of investors these coins attract. Before the release of the Gold Eagle, most Americans found it all but impossible to invest in precious metals as US laws on ownership of bars of gold and other precious metals have been in place since we first went off the Gold Standard. Suddenly these bullion coins made ownership of gold not only perfectly legal but no more difficult than going into the nearest bank or specialty coin dealer and ordering what you wanted. Within days these coins became the fastest selling form of gold to be found anywhere within the United States. The U.S. Mint also offered a proof Gold Eagle that was aimed specifically at collectors. It was stamped with the mint mark "W" to show the West Point Mint and weighed one full ounce.
Total sales of this coin in 1986 were 446,290m, all of which were full ounce size because this was the only year that they did not offer fractional sized coins from this mint. The front of the coin was designed by none other than Augustus Saint-Gaudens who designed the original Double Eagle coin in 1920 and the reverse side by Miley Busiek. There were 1,362,650 1 ounce Eagles minted in this year which were 91.67% gold, 3% silver, and 5.33% copper. Today these coins easily fetch up to $2,000 each on the open market if not more depending on the condition.