While 2021 was another year packed with unprecedented circumstances across many aspects of American life, the United States Mint seemed to regain its coin production footing and released an exciting lineup of precious metal investment pieces over the past twelve months.
It seemed that 2021 was the year of reboots and redesigns at the Mint, with many of our favorite numismatic items getting artistic facelifts while coins of bygone eras resurfaced as modern-day investment pieces.
Our team has rounded up a list of our Top 5 coin releases of 2021. Read on to see which coins made the cut!
5. 2021 Platinum American Eagle PF70 Coin – Inaugural Issue in the “First Amendment to the United States Constitution” Design Series
The Platinum American Eagle series was launched by the United States Mint in 1997, marking the first time in the nation’s history a legal tender proof coin made of platinum was ever released for public consumption by the Mint.
The Platinum Eagle proof coin has grown into one of the Mint's most notable and widely sought-after annual investment coins. While the bullion version of the coin bears the same obverse and reverse designs each year, the proof series' designs change regularly, making it perhaps one of the most distinct and alluring series offered by the Mint.
Since its launch in 1997, the Platinum Eagle Proof has featured an array of design runs, each illuminating a treasured ideal of the United States. For the first ten years of its tenure, the Platinum Eagle Proof shared a common obverse design that depicted the Statue of Liberty – our nation’s classic symbol of liberty and freedom – and an alternating reverse design. The annually changing reverse images represented a variety of American themes, including “Portrait of Liberty” in 1997, “Vistas of Liberty” from 1998 to 2002, “Foundations of Democracy” from 2006 to 2008, “Preamble to the Constitution” from 2009 to 2014, and “Torches of Liberty” in 2015 and 2016.
In 2017, for the coin’s 20th anniversary, the original 1997 reverse design was struck. Following that two-decade commemoration run, the “Preamble to the Declaration of Independence” series was featured from 2018 to 2020. It was with the onset of this “Preamble” chapter that the coin’s obverse design began alternating, and its reverse became the common image (an in-flight eagle clasping an olive branch in its talons).
Another new design chapter kicked off for the Platinum American Eagle proof coins this year. Entitled "First Amendment to the United States Constitution Platinum Proof Coin Series,” the five-year run will feature a new obverse image each year from 2021 through 2025. All the designs will match the “First Amendment” theme by commemorating and celebrating the freedoms and rights outlined in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution: freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and the right of people to petition their government.
The designer, Donna Weaver, chose to represent these First Amendment ideals with images of a growing oak tree. Each year's design will depict the next stage in the tree's lifecycle, beginning with an oak seedling in 2021 and ending with a mighty full-grown oak in 2025. The tree's maturation is intended to mirror “our country’s growth as a nation that values freedom,” as the Mint’s website points out. The Mint further describes the new theme with the idea that “Liberty grows to a thing of strength and beauty from a seed – our Bill of Rights,” and that “Each of the freedoms enumerated in the First Amendment contributes to the growth and development of the nation” and its concept of freedom and liberty.
Each image is accompanied by a tagline emphasizing the current stage of growth – “Liberty Grows” in 2021, “Liberty Blossoms” in 2022, “Liberty Bears Fruit” in 2023, “Liberty Spreads” in 2024, and finally, “Liberty Endures” in 2025.
In 2015, the United States Mint launched its American Liberty Gold Coins and Silver Medals Program to celebrate “modern interpretations of the concept of American liberty.” Each coin within the American Liberty series is issued first as a 24-karat gold coin and later struck as a silver medal for a selection of designs.
Each coin and medal in the series bears a reimagined depiction of liberty on its obverse that aims to reflect our evolved understanding of the concept in today’s United States. The reverse of each American Liberty coin and medal features a “contemporary” iteration of the American eagle.
The 2021 issue of the American Liberty coin is the fifth installment of the gold coin series. Like its predecessors, the 2021 Gold American Liberty High Relief Proof coin aims to represent how we understand liberty and freedom as Americans today. However, this year’s obverse design departed from the classic depictions of liberty as a stately and elegant female figure who is often affectionately referred to as “Lady Liberty.” Instead, the 2021 gold coin issue features a bucking bronco on its obverse, which beautifully captures the wild nature of the American spirit and the “bucking” of British monarchical rule. While the horse is saddled, strikingly, there is no human figure present in the image.
The Mint describes this year’s design as a “bold and breathtaking representation of the determination and power of the passion for American liberty.” Touching on the “bucking” aspect of the obverse image, the Mint notes that the design recalls the American Revolution, through which our forefathers bucked “the yoke of British rule” in their pursuit of liberty and self-governance.
Artistic Infusion Program member, Beth Zaiken, designed the 2021 obverse image while Medallic Artist Craig Campbell sculpted it.
The coin's reverse image features an astounding close-up portrayal of an American eagle with a gaze so intense the viewer feels almost as if the bird’s stare breaks through the image and into real life. The design was created by Artistic Infusion Program member Richard Masters and sculpted by Phebe Hemphill, another Medallic Artist at the Mint.
Technological advancements have allowed the Mint to strike the gold coins and silver medals in high relief. The 2017 225th Mint Anniversary gold coin was the first time in its history that the U.S. Mint struck a high relief coin with a proof finish, while 2019 was the first time the Mint struck a high relief silver medal.
According to Coin World, 11,992 orders for the 2021 Gold American Liberty High Relief Proof coin were placed on the first day of sales, nearly reaching the Mint’s 12,500 mintage limit for the coin in its first 24 hours of availability.
3. 2021 Silver Morgan Dollar MS70 Coin – Reboot of Pre-1933 U.S. Morgan Silver Dollars
The circulating U.S. Morgan Silver Dollar was struck from 1878 until 1904 and again in 1921. To honor the 100th anniversary of the final strike year of this storied coin, the U.S. Mint undertook an ambitious project this year to strike and offer for investment five separate 21st century Morgan Dollar coins to the American people. The five 2021 Morgan Dollar issues represent each of the Mint locations at which the late 19th and early 20th century coins were struck – Philadelphia, San Francisco, Denver, New Orleans, and Carson City.
The Mint released the five coins in two two-coin sets and a final one-coin installment. The first two-coin set was offered to the public beginning in late May 2021 and included the two coins representing the New Orleans and Carson City mints. As these two Mint outposts are no longer operational, the initial 2021 Morgan Dollar coins both bear a privy mark (versus a mint mark) to represent the Mint locations they were designed to commemorate. In this initial two-coin offering, both coins were struck at the Philadelphia Mint, one of the most prominent Mint locations still in operation today.
The second two-coin installment of the 2021 Morgan Dollar coin was supposed to be released shortly after the first. However, it was delayed due to disruptions to the customer ordering process from the first round of released coins. According to an email announcement from the Mint in late June, the disruptions were due to "an extraordinarily high volume of BOT traffic" during the first two-coin set's pre-sale window. The interference from the purported bot traffic apparently inhibited numerous would-be coin purchasers from having what was perceived to be a fair chance at snagging the high-demand Morgan Dollars.
The second two-coin installment was finally released in early August 2021, representing the Denver Mint and the San Francisco Mint. With these two Mint outposts still being operational today, the coins representing these locations were struck with the mint mark versus a privy mark. The third and final installment of the five-coin 2021 Morgan Dollar series was launched on August 10, 2021. This release featured a single coin struck at the Philadelphia Mint, although no mint or privy mark was included.
All of the five 2021 Morgan Dollar issues boast the same features and specifications, outside of their unique privy or mint marks. They contain .858 troy ounces of 99.9% fine silver and carry a legal tender face value of $1. While the $1 face value is the same as the Mint’s late-19th and early-20th century issues, those original circulating coins comprised a metal mix of 90% silver and 10% copper.
All of the present-day Morgan Dollar issues bear the same obverse and reverse designs as the original issues – a profile portrait of Lady Liberty on the obverse and a heraldic eagle on the reverse. The designs were created by George T. Morgan, giving the coin its “Morgan Dollar” nickname.
The 2021 Morgan Dollar coins were struck with an "Uncirculated" finish, which, like proof coins, are graded according to what's known as the Sheldon scale. The Sheldon scale is a rubric for assessing a coin’s quality and is used by third-party grading authorities like the Numismatic Guaranty Company (NGC). Unlike proof coins, uncirculated pieces receive the “Mint State” (versus “Proof”) label for those that achieve a grade of 60 or higher. A grade of 70 is the highest a coin can achieve, indicating the best quality, so an Uncirculated item receiving this score would be labeled “Mint State 70” or “MS70.”
This year, launched in conjunction with the final 2021 Morgan Dollar issue, was a coin produced in honor of another notable centennial anniversary – the 100th year since the original circulating U.S. Peace Dollar was produced, commemorated by the modern-day 2021 Peace Dollar. The original early 20th century coins replaced their Morgan Dollar predecessors and were created to celebrate the end of WWI. The 20th century Peace Dollar also “symbolized the [United States’] coming of age as an international power, while recognizing the sacrifices made by its citizens” during the Great War, according to the Mint’s description of the 2021 issue.
Like its 2021 Morgan Dollar counterparts, the 21st century Peace Dollar was also created in the striking “Uncirculated” finish. It features the same obverse and reverse designs that were struck on the circulating U.S. Peace Dollars 100 years ago, both of which were designed by Italian American sculptor Anthony (Antonio) de Francisci.
The heads side of the Peace Dollar depicts a profile portrait of Lady Liberty in an eye-catching fashion. Liberty is portrayed as relatively slender, as compared to other early depictions of her, and wears a “radiant crown,” as the Mint puts it, presumably made of rays of sun that symbolize the dawning of a new day and the triumph of democracy and freedom on the global stage. The coin’s reverse side shows de Francisci’s resting eagle perched atop what looks to be a mountain peak. The bird pins an olive branch – symbolizing peace – under its talons while brilliantly beaming rays of light radiate in the background.
The 2021 Peace Dollar comprises .858 troy ounces of 99.9% fine silver, while its 20th-century predecessors were made of 90% silver and 10% copper and contained only .773 troy ounces of silver.
While the original circulating U.S. Peace Dollar coins were struck at three Mint locations across the country – Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Denver – the 2021 coins were produced only at the Philadelphia Mint. Neither the 20th nor 21st-century coins minted in Philadelphia carry a mint mark.
This year, two of the Mint’s most widely recognized and sought-after investment coins – the Gold and Silver American Eagle Proof coins – underwent design overhauls and debuted mid-year with fresh reverse images. The summer 2021 releases were dubbed the “Type 2” Gold and Silver American Eagles.
The revamping marks the first time in both the Gold and Silver Eagles’ now more than three-decade tenures that the coins will feature fresh reverse images, making both of these 2021 Type 2 issues particularly noteworthy and appealing to investors far and wide.
The 2021 Gold American Eagle Proof coin, released by the Mint in the standard four denominations issued every year, features a new tails-side image designed by U.S. Mint Artistic Infusion Program member Jennie Norris and sculpted by veteran U.S. Mint Medallic Artist Renata Gordon. Norris’s image features a striking close-up portrait of an American eagle, whose piercing gaze brings an abundance of life-like dynamism to the design. In a press release announcing the new image, the Mint noted that Norris leaned on her time as a volunteer raptor handler and her “deep connection with wildlife” to create this new vision for the Gold Eagle coins. Regarding her take on the mighty American eagle, Norris herself remarked that she was “hoping to capture the intensity of [the eagle’s] stare through the close cropping. His gaze speaks of pride and wisdom passed down through generations of time.”
The new reverse image for the Type 2 2021 Silver American Eagle Proof coin was designed by illustrator and U.S. Mint Artistic Infusion Program member Emily Damstra and sculpted by now-retired Mint Medallic Artist Michael Gaudioso. Damstra’s image shows an American eagle gracefully and gently descending toward what is presumed to be a nest below, carrying an oak branch in its talons.
Both of the Type 2 coins bear the same obverse images as prior releases – a replica of the famed Saint-Gaudens double eagle Lady Liberty image for the Gold Eagle Proof and Adolph A. Weinman’s classic Walking Liberty design for the Silver Eagle Proof. While the images themselves look the same as prior year issues, the heads-side designs for the 2021 coins include “enhanced security details,” such as “anti-counterfeit reeded edge variation,” according to statements from the Mint.
The 2021 product lineup from the United States Mint was one for the books, brimming with revamped annual issues and revisited favorites from past eras. The coins on our list of Top 5 2021 coin releases from the United States Mint are just a few of the stellar items available for investing in this year!