Background and History
The 1995-W Proof American Silver Eagle (Buy on eBay) remains the undisputed key date of the popular series and has come to represent one of the most coveted modern rarities. The coin was created to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the American Eagle program and only issued within a special set containing four higher value gold coins. The unusual circumstances of the distribution resulted in an extremely limited mintage of just 30,125 pieces.
The American Silver Eagle was originally authorized under the Liberty Coin Act, which became Public Law No. 99-61 with President Ronald Reagan’s signature on July 9, 1985. The law provided for coins to be minted and issued with a diameter of 40.6 mm, weight of 31.103 grams (one troy ounce), and composition of 99.9% fine silver. The initial source for the silver would be the Defense National Stockpile. The Liberty Coin Act also authorized the American Gold Eagle, with gold coins struck in one ounce, one-half ounce, one-quarter ounce, and one-tenth ounce sizes.
When the American Silver Eagle series launched in late 1986, the obverse featured Adolph A. Weinman’s Walking Liberty design, which had appeared on the circulating half dollars issued from 1916 to 1947. The reverse design featured a heraldic eagle designed by John Mercanti, who would later be appointed Chief Engraver of the United States Mint. The coins were offered in bullion format and distributed through a network of authorized purchasers with the pricing determined based on the market price of silver plus a fixed mark up. Numismatic versions of the coins were also offered, which for the initial years of the series consisted of an annual proof coin struck at either the San Francisco or Philadelphia Mint. Sales for the Proof Silver Eagles reached more than 1.4 million for the first year of issue in 1986. This number declined over the next two years before settling around roughly 500,000 coins per year.
Coin Mintage and Original Issue
The American Eagle Program entered its tenth year in 1995 and represented an important milestone for celebration. Since the introduction of the program in 1986, the United States Mint had produced and sold more than 50 million ounces of silver bullion coins and nearly 6 million ounces of gold bullion coins. The numismatic offerings had also proven highly popular, with the annual offerings for collectors typically including a proof version of the Silver Eagle as well as proof versions of the four different sized Gold Eagles.
For 1995, the Mint would offer the same standard numismatic options. The 1995 Proof Silver Eagle was struck at the Philadelphia Mint and carried the “P” mint mark. These coins were priced at $23 each. The 1995 Proof Gold Eagles were available in the four different sizes, with each coin struck at the West Point Mint and carrying the “W” mint mark. These were offered either individually or within a four-coin set priced at $999.
A special 10th Anniversary Set was also announced in the Fall of 1995. This set would contain all five Proof American Eagle coins struck at the West Point Mint and carrying the “W” mint mark. While the Proof Gold Eagles were the same as available individually or within the four-coin set, the Proof Silver Eagle with the “W” mint mark was only available within this set. The price for the anniversary set was the same $999 charged for the four-coin set as a way of thanking customers for their support of the program. The anniversary set carried a mintage limit of 45,000 sets, but in the end only 30,125 sets were sold. By consequence, the 1995-W Proof Silver Eagle had a total mintage of only 30,125 and became the new key date coin of the series by a wide margin.
Finest Known and Values
The majority of 1995-W Proof Silver Eagles certified by the grading services fall into the category of near perfection, with a steep drop off at the highest grade level. The NGC Census shows nearly 5,000 coins receiving the grade of PR-69 Ultra Cameo with about 650 receiving the top grade of PR-70 Ultra Cameo. The trends at PCGS are similar with more than 3,000 coins graded PR-69 Deep Cameo and about 400 graded PR-70 Deep Cameo.
The desire for a perfect example of the modern rarity briefly drove auction prices to dizzying heights. About a decade ago, the populations at the top grade level were much smaller and opportunities to acquire such coins were more infrequent. An example of the 1995-W Proof Silver Eagle graded PCGS PR-70 DCAM established a record price of $40,000 in 2010. Another perfect graded example did not appear again at auction until 2013, when bidding spiraled to an even higher record price of $86,654.70!
At the time these record prices were achieved, the PCGS Population Report showed only eight coins graded at this level. The record prices attracted more submissions and resubmissions of the coins in the ensuing months and years, causing the number of examples receiving the highest grade to swell. With a greater supply available, prices inevitably fell. The current market supports price levels of roughly $12,000 to $16,000 for 1995-W Proof Silver Eagles graded PR-70 at either service. Examples graded PR-69 tend to sell for roughly $2,500 to $3,000.