The 1996 Silver Eagle is one of the most valuable Silver Eagle coins because of the lowest mintage of the series. No wonder collectors are prepared to pay extra for this exceptionally rare coin! One collector paid an incredible sum of $21,850 for a 1996 Silver Eagle in mint state 70 (MS70) back in 2009.
According to the world’s most reliable grading company, the Numismatic Guaranty Company (NGC), the 1996 Silver Eagle is especially popular both for its lowest mintage and the extremely rare mint state 70 coins (MS70). As a comparison, for every certified mint state 70 (MS70) 1996 Silver Eagle, the NGS has certified over 600 mint state 69 (MS69) 1996 Silver Eagles. 1996 is also the year with a notable flaw in mintage in the form of “milky spots” which only added to the elusiveness of the MS70 silver coins.
In this article, you will learn everything there is to know about the 1996 Silver Eagle and its value. Because it is a bullion coin the smallest price would be the spot value of silver per ounce at the moment of buying. Usually, silver coins can be bought for about $2 below or above the silver price of an ounce depending on whether you are selling or buying a 1996 Silver Eagle. To get the best value for your 1996 Silver Eagle check out its history, characteristics, mintage, varieties, and auction prices.
History of 1996 Silver Eagle
The history of the 1996 Silver Eagle starts ten years earlier when the first bullion Silver Eagle was released by the United States Mint (November 24, 1986). Unlike its predecessor the 1986 Silver Eagle, the 1996 American Silver Eagle has a lower mintage of just 3,603,386 pieces.
When you look at the 1996 Silver Eagle it looks like any other ordinary coin in the American Silver Eagle (ASE) series, but this business strike series has the lowest mintage of all on its regular (non-proof) issue. This fact alone makes having this rare 1996 Silver Eagle worthwhile. The question is why this bullion coin was produced at such a low mintage.
The reduced mintage of the 1996 Silver Eagle is a result of the low demand for the coin at that time. In 1996, the precious metals market, silver in particular wasn’t exactly blooming. Then and in the following years, this silver coin could be bought for around $5.20 an ounce. Needless to say that back then precious metals trading was slower than today. Hence the low demand and correspondingly low mintage of the 1996 Silver Eagle.
The low demand for silver coins didn’t last long, so in 1999, the mintage of the Silver Eagle rose to eight to ten million coins a year, making the 1996 Silver Eagle even more valuable to collectors. Therefore, even the 1996 Silver Eagle coins in mint state 65 (MS65) with way lower quality than the perfect mint state 70 (MS70) coins are trading for $50. The price grows higher from there because most numismatists look for the higher grades of the 1996 Silver Eagle. For example, in MS69 this coin’s value is $110, and in a perfect mint state, MS70 (fewer than 200 pieces in Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) holders) can reach around $5,750. Impressive, right?
1996 Silver Eagle Main Characteristics and Mintage
Type: American Silver Eagle
Design: Adolph A. Weinman (front), John Mercanti (back)
Writings: LIBERTY – IN GOD WE TRUST (obverse or front side), UNITED STATES OF AMERICA – 1 OZ. – FINE SILVER- ONE DOLLAR- E PLURIBUS UNUM (reverse or back side)
Mint Mark: none (bullion), P (proof)
Bullion Mintage: 3,603,386
Proof Mintage: 500,000
Face value: $1.00
Metal: 99.93% silver, and 0.07% copper
Total Weight: 1 troy oz. or 31.10 grams
Diameter: 40.6 mm (1.598 inches)
Thickness: 2.98 mm (0.117 inches)
Present Silver Bullion Value: $23.96 (5/14/2023)
Between 1986 and 1998, the 1996 Silver Eagle coins without a mintmark were minted in the San Francisco Mint. The 1996 Silver Eagle proof coins bearing the “P” mintmark were struck in the Philadelphia Mint from 1993 to 2000. A total of 500,000 proof Silver Eagles were minted in Philadelphia.
The 1996 Silver Eagle coins were minted in two U.S. mints as uncirculated without mintmarks and as proof Silver Eagle coins. If you have a 1996-proof Silver Eagle, make sure to look for the mintmark “P” on the reverse side of the coin. As in other American Silver Eagle Coins, the 1996-proof Silver Eagle coins are more valuable than the regular ones. If you are buying it from the U.S. Mint the proof coin comes with an Official Certificate of Authenticity (COA) and in a fancy velvet box.
The 1996 Silver Eagle marks both the year with the lowest Silver Eagle mintage and mintage below 4,000, 000 coins. Hence, the popularity of this coin among collectors and its high value. Another fact that adds to the 1996 Silver Eagle value is the design change from the original Heraldic Eagle on the coin’s reverse side by John Mercanti to the new reverse design by Emily S. Damstra. This change added even more value to the 1996 business strike.
Varieties of 1996 Silver Eagle
All American Silver Eagle coins have been verified in their first strike and by early-release holders. In the many varieties of the 1996 Silver Eagle, there are a few signed by mint engravers, famous numismatists, celebrities, and PCGS founders. This only adds to the value of the already valuable varieties of the 1996 Silver Eagle:
PCGS population of the MS70s: 2;
PCGS population of the MS70s: 1;
PCGS population of the MS69s: 10;
PCGS population of the MS70s: 53;
PCGS population of the MS70s: 10;
PCGS population of the MS69: 1;
PCGS population of the MS69s: 10;
PCGS population of the MS70: 1;
PCGS population of the MS69s: 46;
PCGS population of the MS69s: 30.
As you can see there is a difference in the population of these 1996 Silver Eagle varieties. To review these and other 1996 Silver Eagle prices use the PCGS Silver Eagle price guide. If you buy some of these coin varieties through other means or dealers always be on the lookout for fake silver eagles. Also, make sure to check the coin with a magnet and look for the word copy often seen on one of the eagle’s wings in small letters. Don’t purchase 1996 Silver Eagle from auctions that don’t allow a return period (a reputable seller guarantees for its silver coins) and sellers who hide their feedback. Protect yourself by buying from reliable coin dealers and auctions. Better safe, than sorry!
NGC Grading of 1996 Silver Eagle
The Numismatic Guaranty Company (NGC) grades most coins including the 1996 Silver Eagle on a scale of 1 to 70. Grading is quite important when it comes to the value of a particular coin. So, before you start thinking of the silver coin’s value you should know the grading system in detail. The NGC’s Coin Grading Scale based on the internationally acknowledged Sheldon Scale uses a numeric scale (1-70) to grade the coin’s condition and especially pays attention to subtle differences near the top of the scale. Usually, before the numeric grade there is an abbreviation that specifies the way the coin was struck and its estimated condition, and after the grade, there is a “strike character” that further explains the 1996 Silver Eagle condition. The NGC has graded over 10 million coins from the American Silver Eagle program, more than any other coin. Let’s see how the NGC grades the 1996 Silver Eagle with a focus on the higher grades on the scale (67-70):
- MS/PF 70
For a 1996 Silver Eagle to get the highest grade, perfect mint state 70 (MS70) it must be complete, sharp, and outstanding with no visible imperfections at times 5 magnification.
- MS/PF 69
For a 1996 Silver Eagle to get an almost perfect mint state 69 (MS69) grade it must have an outstanding shine, minor contact marks, and a complete and sharp strike.
- MS/PF 68
For a 1996 Silver Eagle to get the only minuscule imperfections mint state 68 (MS68) grade it must have an outstanding shine, complete and sharp strike, and minor contact marks or some noticeable milk spots;
- MS/PF 67
Mint state 67 (MS67) is a grade that allows numerous and concentrated imperfections like hairlines or milk spots. Also at this grading level, the 1996 Silver Eagle shine has to be strong with only minor disruptions, some contact marks, and slight strike weakness.
The grading differences at the top of the grading scale may drastically affect the 1996 Silver Eagle Value. For example, a Silver Eagle with an MS70 grade can have a much higher price than one graded MS69. For better value insight of the top-graded and most valuable coins check the NGC US Coin Price Guide.
Most Valuable 1996 Silver Eagles from Auctions
There are many valuable 1996 Silver Eagles sold on different auctions, but we will start with the most valuable 1996 Silver Eagle in mint state 70 (MS70) sold for an amazing $21,850 by one of the world’s largest numismatic auctioneers- Heritage Auctions. Besides the Heritage Auctions record check out our table with other valuable 1996 Silver Eagle coins sold between 2013 and 2023:
|Grade||Silver caches (SVC)||Firm||Sale||Date||Price|
|MS70||NGC||Heritage Auctions||2014 March 21 & 23 US Coins Signature Auction||March 2014||$9,400|
|MS70||NGC||Heritage Auctions||2014 January 8 – 12 FUN US Coin Signature||January 2014||$8,225|
|MS70||NGC||Heritage Auctions||Long Beach U.S Coin Signature Auction||June 2015||$7,050|
|MS70||NGC||Heritage Auctions||2013 November 1-3 U.S. Coin Signature Auction||November 2013||$5,875
|MS70||PCGS||Heritage Auctions||2017 April 26-30 CSNS U.S. Coins Signature Auction C||April 2017||$5,405|
|MS70||NGC||Heritage Auctions||2013 July 11 – 14 US Coins Signature Auction||July 2013||$4,406|
|MS70||NGC||Heritage Auctions||2023 January 9 Modern Collectible U.S. Coins & Bullion U.S. Coins||January 2023||$4,080|
|MS70||PCGS||Heritage Auctions||2021 April 22 Modern Collectible U.S. Coins & Bullion Special Monthly||April 2021||$3,840|
|MS70||NGC||Heritage Auctions||2016 September 7-11 Long Beach Expo U.S. Coins Signature Auction||September 2016||$3,760|
|MS69PL||PCGS||Heritage Auctions||Internet U.S. Coin Auction #132105||February 2021||$3,600
|MS70||NGC||Heritage Auctions||2020 October 15-18 U.S. Coins Signature Auction #||October 2020||$3,120|
|MS70||NGC||Kagin’s||September 2017 West Coast Auction||September 2017||$3,055|
|MS70||NGC||Heritage Auctions||Internet U.S. Coin Auction||March 2018||$3,000
|MS70||NGC||Heritage Auctions||2018 October 11-14 U.S. Coins Signature Auction Chicago||October 2018||$2,880
|MS70||NGC||Heritage Auctions||2019 April 25-28 Central States (CSNS) U.S. Coins Signature Auction Chicago, IL||April 2019||$2,280|
Undoubtedly, the 1996 Silver Eagle has high value especially the one in mint state 70 which is quite rare. So, if you have a 1996 Silver Eagle, review these auction prices and purchase details before you start calculating the value of your bullion Silver Eagle.
Spotting Affecting the Price of 1996 Silver Eagle
As the auction table shows the 1996 Silver Eagle is one of the most valuable bullion Silver Eagles. However, sometimes some manufacturing flaws or errors can diminish the value of a silver coin, and the 1996 Silver Eagle is no exception. In one of the quality checks of the American Silver Eagle program in the U.S. Mints, the quality division chief decided to focus on an issue that has affected this program since the first year of mintage- 1986. Spots were the problem that many collectors have come across in the years of Silver Eagle production. Therefore, they have reported the following spotting issues affecting the price of the 1996 Silver Eagle:
- Spots or imperfections on the obverse and reverse on bullion, proof and uncirculated Silver Eagle from every U.S. Mint;
- Random single or multiple spotting intersecting the field and devices;
- Spotting in patches or large blotches on large parts of the coin’s designs;
- Dispersed spots and blemishes on the obverse and detracting surface blotches on the reverse of the coin;
- Massive spotting and imperfection issues on the obverse and reverse surface from the rim inward.
Needless to say, these spotting issues are unsightly and diminished the value of the 1996 and related bullion coins from the American Silver Eagle program on the secondary market. This is especially concerning for collectors who are not buying the Silver Eagle for its bullion but for its numismatic value. The U.S. Mints are also affected by this problem because they lose revenue when a collector returns the spotted 1996 Silver Eagle for a new spot-free coin. Mints officials are also making an effort to resolve the issues of plastic lenses scratching in the packaging of annual sets amongst others and to reduce the product’s returns. To overcome every issue concerning the striking of the Silver Eagle the U.S. Mints quality division addressed every component of the production process including:
- The quality of the universal planchets;
- The concentrations of coin cleaning and revitalizing solutions;
- The rinses of coins, drying time, and temperatures;
- The unsuitable fitting plastic packaging capsules;
- The scrapes on plastic lenses for the set of collectors sets;
- The flowing of the copper to the surface during striking in the 90 % silver and 10 % copper planchets;
- Packaging specifications and the opening of some packaging capsules;
- Smaller packaging that puts applies too much pressure on the coin capsules;
- Larger packaging that enables falling out of the coin from its slot;
- Examination of the cardboard inserts used for sets of proof Silver Eagle coins;
- Streamline procedures ensuring materials provide a quality packaged product.
The U.S Mints took the spotting and other 1996 Silver Eagle coin issues very seriously and created teams of specialists from every area of the production process to overcome these mintage flaws.
The 1996 Silver Eagle is a valuable and super-rare silver coin! Due to its low mintage and a few pieces with a perfect MS70 grade, many collectors are after the 1996 Silver Eagle and are willing to pay the big bucks.
Now that you know the history, characteristics, mintage, grading system, varieties, and auction prices of the most valuable 1996 Silver Eagle coins, you can determine the value of the one in your possession. If you are on the other side of the bidding and are trying to acquire a valuable 1996 Silver Eagle, check our table and links with prices to find the coin you like within your budget.
Buy a certified 1996 Silver Eagle from reliable coin auctions and dealers. Be cautious, weigh your options, and only then initiate the buying or selling process.