The Liberty Coin Act of 1985 brought to life one of the world’s most popular silver bullion coins. The Act authorized the minting of the popular American Silver Eagle coin. Learn how and why the Liberty Coin Act came about, what it called for, and how it compares to the Gold Bullion Act of 1985.
The Origin of the Liberty Coin Act
The Liberty Coin Act (formally Public Law 99-51), passed in 1985 and signed into law by President Ronald Reagan, paved the way for minting millions of $1 coins made of 99.9% pure silver.
U.S. Senator James McClure of Idaho sponsored the Liberty Coin Act as a way for miners to sell surplus silver to the federal government. Aside from producing a lot of potatoes, Idaho also produces a fair amount of silver.
The 1 oz. Silver Eagle coins and others included in the Act pay tribute to the Statue of Liberty and her home, Ellis Island.
The front of the American Silver Eagle coin design is based on Adolph A. Weinman’s “Walking Liberty” half-dollar, produced from 1916 to 1947. The “Walking Liberty” half-dollar is considered one of the most beautiful American coins ever minted.
In 2021, the U.S. Mint marked the 35th anniversary of the American Eagle Coin Program with an updated design. The design now includes some of Weinman’s original details that were not previously displayed. Beginning in 2021, the back of the coin shows an eagle making a landing, carrying an oak branch it seems prepared to place in a nest.
From 1986 through the first half of 2021, the back of the coin showed a heraldic eagle with a shield, clenching an olive branch in its right talon and arrows in its left talon. The design, by John Mercanti, symbolized strength and endurance.
The Role of the Liberty Coin Act in U.S. History
The American Silver Eagle coin was born as a result of the Liberty Coin Act, an amendment to the law that created the Statue of Liberty commemorative coin program.
The American Silver Eagle Coin Program, launched in 1986, wound up being one of the most popular and profitable coin programs in the history of the U.S. Mint. To date, more than 600 million of these coins have been minted.
“Today, the Silver Eagle is at the heart of the modern U.S. coin and silver bullion markets as the silver coin that has the highest demand and premiums and the greatest liquidity because of those factors,” according to CoinWeek.
The Liberty Coin Act and the Gold Bullion Act
Both the Liberty Coin Act and the Gold Bullion Coin Act were passed in 1985. These federal laws authorized the production of silver and gold bullion coins by the U.S. Mint. Under the Gold Bullion Coin Act, the Mint was directed to issue gold coins in $50, $25, $10, and $5 denominations. Now American Eagle Silver and American Eagle Gold coins are among the most popular coins in the world.
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