In 1995, the United States Mint issued a special 10th Anniversary set which was comprised of four Proof Gold Eagles and a special One-Ounce Proof Silver Eagle bearing the "W" mint mark. The 1995-W Proof Silver Eagle in this set would be the first Silver Eagle to bear the W mint mark and would also have the lowest mintage for any Silver Eagle ever produced by the U.S. Mint.
A total of 45,000 sets were authorized to be produced for the five-piece set containing the 1995-W Silver Eagle, but only 30,125 total sets were sold. Consequently, for the past 17 years the 1995-W Proof Silver Eagle has become the rarest and most desirable of all Silver Eagles.
The obverse of the 1995-W as well as all other U.S. Silver Eagles would continue the retro trend going back to 1917 and continue throughout 1947, depicting Adolph A. Weiman's prominent Walking Liberty design for the circulating half dollar series. The reverse would illustrate an artistic large heraldic eagle designed by re-known sculptor John Mercanti. The initial introduction by Mercanti would illustrate a beautiful three-sided heraldic eagle. Notably, the final version would portray a full frontal view as currently seen on all U.S. Silver Eagles. Above the eagle 13 stars and in front of the eagle is a large shield with 13 stripes, both representing the original 13 colonies.
The only way to obtain the low-mintage 1995-W Silver Eagle directly from the U.S. Mint would be by purchasing the entire Eagle proof set offered by the Mint in 1995. The Mint offered the four-gold piece set at $999 and as a free bonus buyers could choose to receive the special five-piece set, which included the 1995-W Silver Eagle. The accompanying 1995-W Gold Eagles had the following mintages: 46,484 for the one ounce, 45,442 for the half ounce, 47,484 for the quarter ounce, and 62,673 for the tenth ounce.
Many people who are collecting Silver Eagles are building complete sets. To complete a Silver Eagle proof set, collectors need to acquire the 1995-W Silver Eagle. With a low mintage of 30,125 in one of the most widely collected modern U.S. coin series, attaining this piece will become a great challenge.
Subsequent to the 10th Anniversary Eagle program, the Mint did not celebrate a 20th Anniversary for 2005. Instead, they celebrated the 20th Anniversary in 2006, making things more confusing for Eagle collectors. Since the program first started in 1986, its 10th Anniversary would have been completed in 1996, but instead the Mint used 1995 as the 10thAnniversary by counting 1986 as the first completed year instead of using 1987 as the first complete year. For the anticipated 20th Anniversary Program, they used a different method by actually counting a year after 1986 as the first complete year, and in return, offering special 20th Anniversary Eagle options for 2006.
Offering the 1995-W Silver Eagle with the Gold Eagle proof sets could have been a strategy used by the U.S. Mint to encourage silver collectors to purchase Gold Eagles or visa versa. Originally, Canada was the leading force for gold bullion coins by first offering Canadian Maple Leafs in 1979. At the same time, Mexico was producing a one-ounce silver bullion coin, the Mexican "Onza." The U.S. Mint wanted to receive its own share of the bullion coin market, so it began offering Gold and Silver Eagles in 1986. Canada would enter the silver bullion market two years after the U.S. Proof Silver Eagles were introduced by the U.S. Mint.
Since 1986, the U.S. Mint has offered Proof Silver Eagles directly to collectors at a significant premium over silver spot metal prices. Unlike mint state Silver Eagles, that are offered to the public through a select group of authorized dealers. American Proof Silver Eagles have a set maximum mintage, but the mint state coins are sold in large quantities to meet the public's demand.
There are great opportunities when purchasing modern issues offered by the U.S. Mint if you do your homework and pick the right coins. The 1995-W Proof Silver Eagle is just one out of dozens of different modern coins that has been a big winner so far, and more than likely, there are still many more winners to come from the U.S. Mint.