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The American Gold Eagle Coin

Gold IRA Guide / Precious Metals Allowed in an IRA / The American Gold Eagle Coin

The American Gold Eagle coin is the official gold bullion coin of the United States. It is also one of the most popular bullion coins when it comes to Precious Metals IRA investing. Due to its high purity level, the American Eagle meets the IRS requirements for IRA investing. On this page, you'll learn everything you need to know about this fantastic coin.

Development, Introduction and History

American Eagle coins are official precious metals bullion introduced and authorized by the United States Congress. There are three primary precious metals used for American Eagle coins – gold, silver and platinum.

There have been multiple official gold coins minted by the United States government, starting with the original $10 “Eagle” coins in 1775.

The American Gold Eagle was created under the Gold Bullion Coin Act of 1985, and released in 1986. Per the Act, all of the gold in these coins must be mined in the United States and meet the exact specifications as set by the United States Mint. This act, and subsequent bullion coin acts, was designed to offer an American alternative to bullion coin investments available in other countries.

Front and Reverse view of American Gold Eagle coins

Front and Reverse view of American Gold Eagle coins

Each American Eagle coin also comes in ‘proof‘ versions, which are specially minted for collector value. These coins are more polished than bullion versions in an effort to promote visual appeal. ‘Proof' coins are otherwise identical to bullion coins in size, shape, quality and appearance.

The US Mint introduced gold and silver versions of American Eagles, called American Eagle Uncirculated Coins, from 2006-2008 and again from 2011-present. Uncirculated Coins undergo a different minting process than their Bullion Coin counterparts, though remain very similar in appearance. The term “uncirculated” refers to coins that are created only for collecting or investing, but not for transactional use.

More than 12 million American Gold Eagles have been minted and sold since 1986, and is easily one of the leading bullion investments in the world.

American Gold Eagle Physical Characteristics

Coin Design

According to the United States Mint, American Eagle Coins are created through a specialized minting process. The coin is press-fitted and dyed to maintain a uniform appearance.The standards set by the US Mint guarantee the purity and weight of each coin; additionally, all packaged coins are sold with an official Certificate of Authenticity.

‘Proof' coins are struck multiple times to create their characteristic mirror-like background behind the image. Coins are minted with different images as selected by the US Mint. The Augustus Saint-Gaudens' depiction of ‘Liberty' is the image for American Eagle Gold Coins.

Augustus Saint-Gaudens' famous 'Liberty' image.

Augustus Saint-Gaudens' famous ‘Liberty' image.

This is the same image used by the United States on the $20 ‘double-eagle' coin that was used from 1907-1933. This design is rumored to have been selected by President Theodore Roosevelt, who wished to replicate the exquisite look of Ancient Roman and Greek gold currency.

The coin also carries an inscription of the word “Liberty”, the date of issue and the mint mark of origin.

The reverse side shows a bald eagle carrying an olive branch, returning to a nest occupied by its mate. The words “United States of America”, “E Pluribus Unum” and “In God We Trust” are also inscribed onto the reverse side.

American Eagle Uncirculated Coins are physically similar to traditional American Eagle Gold coins; the only distinguishing mark made on an Uncirculated Coin is a ‘mint mark' which indicates the production facility for the coin (West Point, for example).

Specifications

American Eagle Gold Bullion coins are offered in 4 different weight denominations:

American Gold Eagle Weight Denominations

 Face ValueGold WeightTotal WeightDiameterThickness
(US $)oz.oz.mm.mm.
1/10 oz$ 5.000.1000.10916.51.26
1/4 oz.$ 10.000.2500.27322.01.78
1/2 oz.$ 25.000.5000.54527.02.15
1 oz.$ 50.001.0001.09132.72.87
Side-by-side comparison of the 4 weight denominations of American Gold Eagles

Side-by-side comparison of the 4 weight denominations of American Gold Eagles

All American Eagle Gold coins are composed of an alloy that uses 22 karat gold (91.6% gold). Traces of silver and copper are added to the alloy to increase “wear-resistance”.

The 22 karat composition has been the standard for gold coinage dating back to the British Empire, who used 22 karat gold for its sovereign bullion.

American Gold Eagle Pricing

Each American Eagle Bullion carries a face value, or their value as currency dictated by law.

While technically legal tender, these values are largely symbolic; the actual value of American Gold Eagles is typically much greater than the listed face value.

The face value of a coin is completely separate from its intrinsic value, or value determined (primarily) by the price of gold.

Market prices for American Gold Eagle coins fluctuate daily, similar to most commodities tied to the value of precious metals. Most major newspapers will report the daily price of gold, making for simple tracking of investment value.

There is typically a premium added to the market value of the metal in order to cover coinage and distribution. Intrinsic value is the value utilized by American Eagle coin investments in a portfolio.

Investing in American Gold Eagle Coins Through an IRA

American Eagles have been authorized additions to investment portfolios inside of an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) since their inception.

One of gold’s primary functions in an IRA is to add a level of diversification that is independent of fluctuations for stocks or bonds.

22-karat gold has been a standard for gold bullion dating back to the British Empire

22-karat gold has been a standard for gold bullion dating back to the British Empire

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) allows specific types of IRAs to carry gold, silver, platinum and palladium bullion in a portfolio. Sometimes referred to as a “precious metals IRA“, these IRAs are self-directed and may only contain IRS-approved bullion – such as American Eagle coins.

Any IRS-approved bullion must meet minimum purity requirements in order to be included in an IRA. All American Eagle coins are guaranteed by the United States Mint to meet these requirements. The required minimum purchase amount is $5,000 to establish a precious metals IRA, and all subsequent purchased must be of at least $1,000.

When an investor makes a purchase of American Gold Eagles (or any investment-grade bullion), the IRS mandates that the metal be held in a ‘depository’ responsible for the security and maintenance of precious metals.

Those with existing IRAs have the option of transferring or rolling over funds into a precious metals IRA.

American Eagle Gold, Silver and Platinum Eagle coins are not available for direct purchase from the United States Mint. Rather, American Eagle coins are sold, in bulk, to qualifying institutions at a slight premium.

The US Mint does allow direct purchase of American Eagle Uncirculated Coins and ‘proof' coins at a fixed price.

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