American Silver Eagle Coins
Silver dollar. For whatever reason, those two words when spoken together just have something about them. Call it mystique, awe, or just plain wonderment, nobody can deny that silver dollars have a certain allure about them. Why? Your guess is as good as mine, but I think it has to do with the fact that we no longer use silver dollars as a form of currency. They just do not make practical sense in that regard anymore, which is too bad. They are bulky to carry around, anybody that needs to carry more than a few bucks would have bulging pockets of silver dollars. And lets face it, there is not much you can even buy for a dollar anymore these days. And now that we can just swipe a credit card into a slot machine that prints out a receipt of our winnings, there is no longer the need to carry around those big buckets of coins.
The American Silver Eagle Program
If you are a fan of silver dollars like myself, do not despair! You can still purchase and collect them for a relatively inexpensive hobby. The U.S. Mint started the Silver Eagle program back in 1986. Ever since then, they have been producing silver dollar coins on a regular basis, and even added a proof version to appeal to a wider range of collectors. When a coin is minted, it is either uncirculated or proof. the uncirculated coins are used for the general population, but a bunch are also held for sale to collectors and usually put into packages called mint sets. Proof coins however are minted solely for the purpose of collecting. They undergo a special process that at one time made the coin shinier. Lately this process has evolved and now produces what are know as cameos, where the relief on the coin has a sort of frosted look to it.
You can either purchase Silver Eagles directly through the U.S. Mint's website, or go to any local dealer in your area. You can also purchase them online, from sites like eBay. Even Amazon sells coins these days.
Toned Silver EaglesClick thumbnail to view full-size
Do you think a patina
One of the reasons silver coins, and dollars in particular, appeal to collectors is the ability of the coin to develop a patina over time. Silver is a precious metal that reacts to other chemicals it comes in contact with, either by touch or even through the air. Depending on the reaction and the chemical will determine the appearance of the patina. This is something that used to happen naturally over time, but these days I would not be surprised if people forced a reaction to occur in order to increase the value of their coins. This is not something I recommend, chances are you will do more harm than good messing around with chemicals.
What you can do however is to experiment with some of the older envelopes and coin holders. I can not confirm this, but somebody once told me that the older Whitman coin books (you know, those blue cardboard books with the holes to pop coins in) used to contain sulfur and other chemicals. Coins that were stored in these older books and then rediscovered years later, ahd a good chance of having a nice patina on them.
This is either a love it or hate it feature. Some collectors thinks it increases the value of the coin while others think of a patina as "tarnish".
Whether you collect coins or not, the American Silver Eagle is a great way to get started, or add to an existing collection. Silver is not as expensive as gold but still makes a great looking coin. Even if this is something that does not appeal to you, you can also make a tradition of giving them to your kids on their birthday or Christmas each year. By doing this you will either introduce them to a great hobby as they are growing up, or at least leave them with a little something they can sell further down the road.