Whitman Publishing’s new Guide Book of American Silver Eagles, by Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez, will debut in December 2022, available from booksellers and hobby shops nationwide. It is volume no. 27 in the best-selling “Bowers Series” of numismatic references. Here, Whitman publisher Dennis Tucker discusses the book and the popularity of American Silver Eagle coins.
The American Silver Eagle is one of the most popularly collected U.S. coins today—and it has some of the most passionate collectors. At Whitman Publishing headquarters we witnessed this in no uncertain terms in 2018.
That year, under pressure to fit more and more America the Beautiful quarters, commemoratives, and other content into the Red Book, which was already bursting at the seams, we made a radical change to our coverage of bullion coins: We condensed the book’s silver, gold, and platinum bullion from 21 pages into 8 pages. Instead of the usual highly detailed charts with mintages and pricing for each coin, we summarized each bullion program with a bit of historical information, a narrative giving typical price ranges for various formats (Proof, bullion strike, etc.), and brief descriptions and pricing for the key dates. The American Silver Eagles were trimmed down from two pages to one.
In hindsight, I can firmly say—the page savings were not worth it!
Almost immediately after the 72nd edition of the Red Book hit the shelves, we started getting phone calls and emails from alarmed collectors. “What happened to the Silver Eagles?” “The Red Book is where I always go for mintages.” “You’ve made a big mistake!”
It was the most vociferous, widespread, grassroots wave of feedback we’ve received on any Red Book subject in the nearly 20 years I’ve been Whitman’s publisher.
Determined to make things right, we quickly laid out the American Silver Eagles in their previous highly detailed format and created a PDF to email or mail to anyone who contacted us with a complaint. You can rest assured that in 2019, in the 73rd edition of the Red Book, the American Silver Eagles were back to their two full pages of complete coverage!
Today these popular (and staunchly defended) coins occupy about two and a half pages in the 76th edition of the Red Book, and we’re planning an expansion to four pages in the 77th edition, with pricing in more grades.
Avid collectors will be very pleased with Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez’s new Guide Book of American Silver Eagles, the latest in-depth reference on these coins. It joins John M. Mercanti’s American Silver Eagles: A Guide to the U.S. Bullion Coin Program, which has been a Whitman best-seller since its first edition debuted. Before Mercanti’s book was published in 2012, collectors had only hobby newspapers and magazines, online forums, and coin-shop and coin-show conversations to guide them in their collecting, along with the Red Book’s annual coverage of the latest coins and sets. There was no comprehensive book-length study.
Mercanti, working with professional numismatist Michael “Miles” Standish, brought personal insight to the study of American Silver Eagles—he was, after all, the designer and sculptor of the coin’s original reverse. Now Josh McMorrow-Hernandez, in the Guide Book of American Silver Eagles, expands the theme with even more historical information and interviews with Mint officials, silver-mine suppliers, CCAC committee members, active dealers, experienced collectors, investment advisors, and others involved in the nation’s best-selling bullion coin program. He brings a journalist’s hunger for answers and a market analyst’s focus on numbers, to show readers how to wisely build a valuable numismatic collection (or, if they prefer, how to spend intelligently as a bullion investor).
In the summer of 2022, I informally polled 114 hobbyists for their opinions on American Silver Eagles. The results were interesting:
- 41 percent identify themselves as either a collector or an investor (or both) in American Silver Eagles (4 percent active collector; 1 percent active investor; 9 percent active collector and investor; 12 percent casual collector; 4 percent casual investor; and 11 percent casual collector and investor).
- 39 percent own some of the coins, but don’t consider them a carefully assembled collection or a significant investment.
- 20 percent don’t collect or invest in them at all, and don’t own any.
Within these numbers we see a coin with broad presence in the hobby community. The data also show a population of casual buyers who might jump to more active collecting and investing.
It’s anecdotally informative to look beyond the numbers and learn collectors’ and investors’ opinions and the feelings inspired by the American Silver Eagle.
One collector of Liberty Walking half dollars said, “The ASE is a great way to see a fully struck, larger-sized Walker.” Another called them “one of the most beautiful coins of the 1900s, if not the most beautiful.”
One hobbyist buys “two every year to keep the set current. I’ll pass them to my two kids someday.” On a similar note: “Mainly I buy them every year to give out as Christmas presents to some relatives and to people at work.”
For some, buying comes down to price: “When I have extra cash, I get a few as bullion, but it depends on the premium.” “Highly recommend for investment. I go where the deal is. Both slabbed and raw. They are a really super deal vs. generic silver dollars, plus have more silver in them. I will not buy classic dollars at current prices.” And “They are fun to own, and I salt some away when silver is low.”
Of course, not every hobbyist is a fan of the American Silver Eagle. One young collector who favors Barber silver coinage said, “A coin has to be older than me to attract my attention.” A skeptic who doesn’t own any dismissed American Silver Eagles as “just more hunks of silver.”
Many, though, describe the coins as “fun,” and those lucky enough to own the series’ rarities love to talk about them. “Yes, I have the 1995-W . . . had it since 1996!” bragged one collector. Another reminisced, “I got the home-run from the Mint, the 2019 Enhanced Reverse Proof—which I traded for 13 Silver Eagles and an ounce of gold!”
Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez explores these angles of the American Silver Eagle and many more in his new book. This is a guide for the active buyer, a history for the numismatist, and an inspiration for those yet to join the field. Whether you’re new to silver bullion or a longtime collector or investor, you’ll find much to learn and profit from in the Guide Book of American Silver Eagles.