The Silver Eagles the Mint tried to keep a secret

Posted by Toby Adkins, Numismatic Scholar for International Currency, L.L.C. on Jul 11th 2018

San Francisco's (S) Mint Silver Dollars

Before we a can tear off into why these coins exist, a little coin history is in order. The Mint started production of the American Silver Eagles back in 1986 and collectors immediately loved them! Over the years, there have been special editions but the Silver Eagles are typically produced in three strikes: bullion, uncirculated, and proof. The proof strikes of the Silver Eagles always carry a mintmark (W,P or S) the uncirculated (burnished) coins carry the W and the regular bullion coins do not have a mintmark at all. They are typically struck at the West Point Mint in New York. So how does this (S) mint coin exist?

As the popularity of the Silver Eagles grew, so did the amount of coins being struck. West Point soon learned they could not keep up with the bullion coins and needed some help! By the year 2011, West Point started sending dies and blanks to San Francisco to help them keep up with demand. Collectors and dealers knew this would be an extremely collectible coin but if there are no mintmarks, how do you know where the coins were being struck? The answer was the packaging. During those years, San Francisco's 500 coin "monster boxes" were security wrapped with "San Francisco" on the bands. If the band is removed, how then can you tell them apart? You can't.

The Birth of the Parenthesis (S)

Everyone soon figured out that if the bands were removed there was no way to tell where the coins were actually struck. Soon complete banded boxes of 500 coins were landing at Numismatic Guaranty Corporation's doorstep. Since the coin did not have an actual mintmark, NGC notated the coin was struck at San Francisco by putting a parenthesis around the S and a new collectible was born. NGC was able to certify brand new (S) Mint coins from 2011 through 2014 until the Mint changed the packaging and stopped labeling the bands.

Back Again!

Until recently, collectors assumed the (S) Mint coins were through since the Mint had stopped labeling their packaging. However, in March of 2017, the game would change! Sharp-eyed NGC representatives started to notice "monster boxes" of Silver Eagles had very close serial numbers and knew something was up. They soon questioned the Mint and they were basically told "we're not telling!" NGC confidently reminded the Mint of the Freedom of Information Act and threatened a lawsuit. That certainly caught the Mint's attention and the information was released. As it turns out, they were newly minted Silver Eagles straight out of the San Francisco Mint! With the mystery solved and the code broken, NGC has once more begun to authenticate and certify (S) Mint Silver Eagles! Currently, 2016 (S) and 2017 (S) Mint Silver Eagles are beginning to appear but in much smaller numbers than before. As always, it's the little details in coins that separate the good from the great!