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The American Silver Eagle is the official silver bullion coin of the United States.
But did you know that 1986 silver eagles are worth more than their bullion value?
Many people wonder how a 1986 American Silver Eagle coin could be worth more than its silver value.
“They’re just bullion coins” is the popular misconception.
While American Silver Eagles are largely marketed as bullion coins, the reality is that they have become a widely collected silver coin.
This is certainly true with the earlier issues in the series. And you can’t get much earlier than 1986 — the year the American Silver Eagle program was launched by the United States Mint.
Some 600 million American Silver Eagles have been struck since 1986, the year they took flight.
These coins are so popular that they are sought by investors and collectors around the world!
How Much Silver Do 1986 Silver Eagles Contain?
An American Silver Eagle contains one troy ounce of silver — or 31.10 grams.
Overall, the coin has a .999-fine silver composition.
How Much Do 1986 American Silver Eagles Weigh?
A 1986 American Silver Eagle contains one troy ounce of silver (31.10 grams) — which is notably more than the standard weight of about 28.30 grams for a regular ounce.
What’s up with that?
The standard ounce, so to speak, is what you might be more familiar with if you cook or bake.
An ounce in this case (as commonly referenced in terms of product weight on packaging for American household items) is expressed in the form of the avoirdupois ounce. There are 28.30 grams for every avoirdupois ounce.
On the other hand, bullion is typically expressed in relation to the troy ounce — which rounds to approximately 31.10 grams (or 31.1035 grams if you want to get uber specific).
Therefore, there are 31.1035 grams of silver in a 1986 American Silver Eagle coin.
Do you have a coin scale? Here are the best scales for weighing U.S. coins. (You might also want to grab a coin magnifier and a copy of the U.S. Coin Grading Standards book to help you determine the value of all your coins.)
What Is The Design On The 1986 Silver Eagle?
The obverse (“heads side”) of the 1986 silver eagle carries a motif of Walking Liberty — a design by Adolph A. Weinman that first appeared on the United States half dollar from 1916 through 1947.
On the reverse (“tails side”) of the 1986 silver eagle is John Mercanti’s visage of a heraldic eagle.
Where Is The Mintmark on 1986 Silver Eagles?
While bullion strike 1986 silver eagles were made at the San Francisco Mint, they do not contain any mint letter stamps (or mintmarks).
However, proof strike 1986 silver eagles were also made at the San Francisco Mint for collectors, and these do carry a mintmark.
You can find the “S” mintmark on 1986 proof silver eagles under the left side (viewer’s perspective) of the heraldic eagle on the reverse.
Are 1986 American Silver Eagles A Good Investment?
While a savvy investor may be able to make a profit from buying and selling silver eagles, it’s important to remember that the price of silver does not always just go up. It fluctuates!
It’s better to think of bullion items like American Silver Eagles as hedges against inflation — meaning that the relative silver value stays stable, even when the value of a dollar goes down.
American Silver Eagles have been terrific investments for many people. But if you do plan to invest, don’t put all your eggs in the silver basket alone. And don’t spend more than you can afford to lose (always with the hope that you’ll profit, of course).
Are 1986 Silver Eagles Rare?
While generally not very rare or valuable, 1986 silver eagles normally trade for more than their silver value alone.
In fact, some fetch thousands of dollars!
There are 3 main reasons for this:
- 1986 marks the first year of the American Silver Eagles coin program.
- Only a relatively small number of silver eagles were made (compared to how many coins are typically made in more recent times).
- 1986 silver eagles in top condition are very hard to come by (making the values for perfect 1986 American Silver Eagles quite high).
Now, let’s talk about 1986 silver eagle values…
1986 Silver Eagle Bullion Strike Value
The 1986 bullion strike American Silver Eagle was originally intended only for investors, but in more recent years it has become a sought-after collectible coin.
The San Francisco Mint produced 5,393,005 bullion strikes. As mentioned above, none of these have an “S” mintmark.
A total mintage of less than 5.4 million is considered a small number today. Combine that with the fact that the 1986 silver eagles represent the first year of mintage for this coin, and it’s obvious why this date is sought by many collectors — especially those who wish to assemble a complete date run!
So, what’s the value of a 1986 silver eagle?
While the value of a 1986 American Silver Eagle is still largely dependent on prevailing silver bullion prices (and thus changes too frequently to publish here), you can expect to pay at least $20 to $30 more than the intrinsic value of this coin.
For example, when silver bullion prices are $20 an ounce, typical 1986 silver eagle values are around $45 to $50 for a bullion strike.
The most valuable 1986 silver eagle was graded MS-70 by Professional Coin Grading Service and sold for $21,150 in a 2013 auction.
1986-S Proof Silver Eagle Value
Like the 1986 bullion strike silver eagle, the 1986-S proof American Silver Eagle was also produced at the San Francisco Mint — but with two very important distinctions:
- The 1986-S proof silver eagle has a special reflective surface and sharper details.
- The 1986-S proof contains an “S” mintmark on the reverse. (The bullion strike has no mintmark.)
What is a proof coin?
In general, it’s the kind of coin made for collectors or special presentation purposes and is struck using highly polished planchets with specially prepared dies.
Proof coins aren’t necessarily rare, but they do represent the epitome of minting quality and workmanship. It’s pretty hard to beat a proof coin!
In the case of the 1986-S proof silver eagle, the San Francisco Mint struck 1,446,778 of them. These coins were sold directly to the public at $21 each.
Today, a 1986-S proof silver eagle typically trades for closer to $60 and up.
The most valuable 1986-S proof American Silver Eagles are those that are graded Proof-70. These high-quality coins tend to command prices of $400 to $500 apiece.
- Tips For Buying Silver Eagles As Bullion OR As Collectible Coins
- 5 Legit Ways To Buy Gold And Silver Coins Cheap (At Or Below Spot Price)
I’m the Coin Editor here at TheFunTimesGuide. My love for coins began when I was 11 years old. I primarily collect and study U.S. coins produced during the 20th century. I’m a member of the American Numismatic Association (ANA) and the Numismatic Literary Guild (NLG) and have won multiple awards from the NLG for my work as a coin journalist. I’m also the editor at the Florida United Numismatists Club (FUN Topics magazine), and author of Images of America: The United States Mint in Philadelphia (a book that explores the colorful history of the Philadelphia Mint). I’ve contributed hundreds of articles for various coin publications including COINage, The Numismatist, Numismatic News, Coin Dealer Newsletter, Coin Values, and CoinWeek. I’ve authored nearly 1,000 articles here at The Fun Times Guide to Coins (many of them with over 50K shares), and I welcome your coin questions in the comments below!