Why Is the Bald Eagle on So Many Coins?

Why Is the Bald Eagle on So Many Coins?


Written by John Rothans

Aug 28, 2019

You already know that majestic imagery of the bald eagle graces many of our coins and that it’s also our national emblem. But did you know that the U.S. nearly missed out on incorporating the powerful bird into our nation’s official seal, the one and only “Great Seal”?

It’s true. Many people toiled away at possible designs. It wasn’t until about the 18th century when artist Robert Scot offered his vision of the Great Seal of the United States that the heraldic bald eagle made its debut.

But what does the bald eagle symbolize? And why is the bald eagle used on coinage?

You have questions. America’s Gold Authority® has answers!

Which Coins Feature the Bald Eagle?

If you’re looking to add or expand your precious metals portfolio with coins featuring the bald eagle, you have many options, including the following gold and silver coins from U.S. Money Reserve:

We “swoop down” into similarities and differences between each coin’s bald eagle design below.

How Do Bald Eagle Designs Vary?

Coins Featuring a Family of Bald Eagles

1 oz. Fine Gold Coin with American Eagle back

The 1-ounce Gold American Eagle Coin features a family of bald eagles designed by American sculptor Miley Tucker-Frost (formerly Miley Busiek). Her eagle family includes:

  • A male eagle flying above a nest, holding an olive branch in his talons
  • A female eagle sitting in the nest with her wings raised slightly to spread protectively around the other birds in the nest
  • Two eaglets nestled closely to one another, as well as to their mother

Miley Busiek’s Family of Eagles

American sculptor Miley Tucker-Frost designed the family of bald eagles that adorns the reverse side of the above-mentioned Gold American Eagle Coin. Before her vision, the bald eagle was often presented alone.

Ronald Reagan’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in 1980 inspired Tucker-Frost to present a more familial bald eagle.

“The theme of his speech that night was ‘Together, a new beginning.’ I liked the idea of thinking of America as a caring family, so I put together a sketch showing not just one eagle, but a whole family,” she told Coin News Today.

“I get such satisfaction from knowing that my family of eagles is making people aware of their own family values as Americans and that the coins have become an ongoing part of our culture,” she added.

Proof Gold American Eagle Coins, Reagan Legacy Series

Proof Gold American Eagle Coins

Fans of the 1-ounce Gold American Eagle will also enjoy the Proof Gold American Eagle and the Burnished Gold American Eagle. These two gold coins feature the same bald eagle design as the 1/10-ounce, 1/4-ounce, 1/2-ounce, and 1-ounce Gold American Eagle but undergo a different minting process.

“Proof” indicates a coin’s finish and method of manufacture. To mint a coin like the Proof Gold American Eagle, hand-polished blanks are specially treated, struck at least twice, and then carefully packaged to preserve their finish. The resulting coin has a frosted foreground with a glamorous shine, highly detailed design, and mirror-like background.

W Burnished Gold American Eagle Coins PCGS MS70 $50

Uncirculated/Burnished Gold American Eagle with “W” Mintmark

Burnished coins are also minted from thoroughly polished coin blanks that are

individually hand-fed into coining presses. Burnished coins, however, have a distinctive matte look that substitutes a traditional coin’s shine for a softer appearance.

Coins Featuring Different Bald Eagle Designs

Double Eagle Coins: Eagle in Flight

front and back of Ultra High Relief Double Eagle in plastic casingSome gold owners would argue that the 1-ounce Ultra High Relief Gold Double Eagle Coin has the most majestic of all bald eagle designs. That’s because the design shows the bald eagle’s mighty wings spread in flight against a backdrop of sun rays. This rendering highlights the bald eagle in its most natural, awe-inspiring splendor. Both sides of the Double Eagle were originally designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens in 1907, then the design was resurrected in 2009. Learn more about the Double Eagle’s storied past.

Silver Eagle Coins: Heraldic Eagle

1 oz. Fine Silver American Eagle Coin, View of Back

Silver American Eagle Coin

But it is the 1-ounce Silver American Eagle Coin that features the heraldic eagle most closely resembling the Great Seal of the United States. The bald eagle clutches arrows in one talon, conveying authority and resolve, and an olive branch in the other talon, underscoring a desire for peace. Thirteen stars hover above the eagle’s head, symbolizing the 13 original American colonies. John M. Mercanti designed this version of the heraldic eagle in 1986.

The 1-ounce Silver American Eagle Coin is also available as a Proof, Mint State, or bullion (ungraded) coin.

Though each bald eagle design is different, each one strikes similar themes: strength, peace, and majesty.

What Does the Bald Eagle Symbolize?

Respect and admiration for bald eagles permeate the American landscape. In professional sports, we have the professional football team the Philadelphia Eagles, winners of Super Bowl LII. In music, there is the Steve Miller Band’s classic rock staple “Fly Like an Eagle.” And American coinage continues to honor the eagle as it has for decades.

The sports team undoubtedly favors bald eagles’ ferocity and command of the sky. The rock band? The eagle’s freedom (from the lyrics: “I want to fly like an eagle ‘til I’m free.”).

Americans love to celebrate the bald eagle for many reasons. It symbolizes strength and authority, as no less an American icon than Ronald Reagan pointed out when he wrote that the eagle on the Great Seal “is a symbol of friendship and cooperation with our allies and a warning to our adversaries that we are not to be trod upon.”

Why Is the Bald Eagle on Coins?

America’s founding fathers sought a symbol of national heritage, one befitting a heraldic symbol or coat of arms—an idea borrowed from Europe—that would serve as the seal of the United States. The seal, in part, helps convey authority and authenticity. As such, the design needed to be truly magnificent.

After many years and false starts, the team responsible for the seal’s design identified the bald eagle as an element capable of conveying the best of a still-young nation. Bald eagles on our coinage carry forward this authority and authenticity, adding a bit of majesty along the way!

Do the Bald Eagle Design Variances Mean Anything?

Variations in the design of the bald eagle—both for the Great Seal and on coinage—sought to underscore the animal’s unmatched stature in nature and to bring an aesthetic of strength, as well as a commanding presence, to the bald eagle and everything on which it appeared.

Interestingly enough, the initial effort to capture that stature left many critics cold. Robert Scot’s bald eagle design for a 1795 gold coin minting featured an eagle perched upon a branch with a wreath in its mouth.

However, compared to later representations of the bald eagle on gold coins, this bald eagle seems skinny and weak.

1795 Turban Head Eagle Coin by Robert Scot

1795 $10 Turban Head Small Eagle Gold Coin, designed by Robert Scot

Send Your Portfolio Soaring

As the previously mentioned Steve Miller Band song notes, “Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’….” Don’t let more of it slip away before you buy a coin with a bald eagle on it. Shop gold and silver coins online or call U.S. Money Reserve at 1-844-307-1589 today.


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