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Those pesky Eagle differences
December 10, 2009

Questions that come up again and again we call “grandfather questions”  here in the Numismatic News office. A new grandfather question that has appeared in recent years relates to the three kinds of American Eagle bullion coins.

As I begin work this morning, I again have such a question in my e-mail.

The on again, off again, sales of the standard bullion coin issue of the gold American Eagle that the U.S. Mint sells to its authorized purchasers seems to confuse some hobbyists as the headlines come and go in a dizzying profusion.

The bullion coin is available only to the authorized purchaser network. It is not ever sold to collectors directly by the U.S. Mint.

Another version of the American Eagle is the “W” uncirculated coin that the U.S. Mint does indeed sell directly to collectors in normal times. Since these are not normal times, they are not being sold.

The third  kind of American Eagle is the proof version of the coin, which in normal times is also sold by the U.S. Mint directly to collectors.

Because these are not normal times, the proof Eagles are not being produced this year, either, interrupting a series that began in 1986. Many collectors who do know what they are not happy about this.

Now, my morning’s e-mail question wondered how I can say something was going on sale when the Mint Web site said it wasn’t. This happened to be the usual confusion between the “W” collector version and the standard bullion coin issue.

I can write the same about the Buffalo gold coins, but they don’t happen to be the topic of this morning’s e-mail.

The good thing about grandfather questions is they are always useful in teaching the next generation of collectors.

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About the Author
David C. Harper has been a coin collector since 1963. He joined the Krause Publications editorial staff in 1978 and is currently editor of Numismatic News and World Coin News. He also edits two books annually, North American Coins & Prices and Coin Digest. He is the author of the Class of '63 column that runs each week in Numismatic News. His first bylined numismatic article appeared in the June 1971 issue of Coins Magazine and his various Krause Publications assignments included a stint as editor of the magazine 1980-1983. Harper received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1977. He had a double major of journalism and economics.

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