The American Eagles program from the U.S. Mint remains one of their most successful series, bringing iconic designs to collections worldwide since 1986. In the years since, as popularity continued to grow, the gold and silver coin program expanded to include platinum and palladium as well. Since the initial release, the designs on the gold and silver coins remained the same – a consistent classic for collectors to look forward to each year.
As the 35th year of this world-renowned program approached in 2021, the U.S. Mint decided to create new designs to celebrate this epic milestone. The obverse designs would be enhanced for the Gold and Silver American Eagles, while the reverses would showcase new designs to bring a fresh look to this favored American coinage. This design change was the first to take place in the program’s history – creating a year where both the 2021 Type 1 and 2021 Type 2 designs were available for collectors before the mint ceased production on new Type 1 coins moving forward.
When looking at the design difference between the two types of Gold and Silver American Eagle coins, it’s clear that they both still feature Lady Liberty on their obverses with an eagle on the other. However, while the overall concept and themes of freedom and family are still wonderfully depicted in the new designs, there are some slight differences between them.
2021 Type 1 Gold American Eagle
Type 1 Gold American Eagle coins feature a more traditional design with Lady Liberty striding towards the rising sun while holding an olive branch and torch in her hand. On the reverse side is a male eagle carrying an olive branch flying above a nest containing a female eagle and her hatchlings. The word “LIBERTY” and the year of issue are inscribed on the edge of the coin’s obverse, while the reverse features the words: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, IN GOD WE TRUST, E PLURIBUS UNUM, and the coin’s metal content.
The iconic obverse design was adapted from Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ famed Gold Double Eagle as a call back to the classic designs that brought beauty to American coinage. The Type 1 reverse was designed by sculptor Miley Busiek Frost. According to The History of the American Eagle Gold Coin published by the U.S. Mint, Busiek Frost’s design was created to symbolize unity and the importance of the tradition of family in America.
2021 Type 2 Gold American Eagle
2021 Type 2 Gold American Eagle coins feature a slightly more modernized classic obverse design, including added details from the original bronze cast to enhance this beloved design. The new reverse, designed by the U.S. Mint’s Artistic Infusion Program designer Jennie Norris, features a bold, close-up image of an American Bald Eagle in intricate detail. The design created by Norris captures the strength and stability provided by the original design while still captivating collectors with the excitement of this redesign.
2021 Type 1 Silver American Eagle
As with the Type 1 and Type 2 Gold American Eagle coins, the Silver American Eagle coin also experienced a design change in 2021. The designs featured on the 2021 Type 1 Silver American Eagle depicted Lady Liberty striding toward the rising sun with an olive branch in her hand. On the reverse was a heraldic Eagle with wings outstretched and thirteen stars above its head, symbolizing the original colonies of the United States.
This design was meant to portray a strong and proud America produced by the same country it represented. The Silver American Eagle’s obverse design was adapted from Adolph A. Weinman’s design called “Walking Liberty,” which had not been used on the half-dollar coins in 1916. The type 1 reverse for this coin was also designed by John Mercanti and remained unchanged from its inception in 1986 until 2021.
2021 Type 2 Silver American Eagle
The 2021 Type 2 Silver American Eagles feature the same obverse design that pays tribute to Weinman’s original 1917 Walking Liberty Half Dollar, enhanced while still staying true to its roots – including Lady Liberty walking towards the rising sun in a confident stride with her hand extended in peace.
The reverse of the 2021 Silver American Eagle also received an update designed by Artistic Infusion Program designer Emily Damstra and sculpted by Medallic Artist Michael Gaudioso. The new reverse depicts an eagle soaring in the sky, its wings spread out in flight as if to embrace America’s majestic landscape in wonderful detail. The American Bald Eagle is clutching an olive branch in its talons – a symbol of strength and patriotism.
Type 1 vs. Type 2 American Eagles
In the Type 2 designs for Gold and Silver American Eagle coins, the obverse continues to feature Saint Gaudens’ beautiful depiction of Lady Liberty and her traditional phrase: E PLURIBUS UNUM. The reverse for both type 2 designs features a modernized and detailed look at the American Bald Eagle – America’s symbol of strength and freedom.
The 2021 Type 1 and Type 2 Silver and Gold American Eagle coins feature beautiful designs that remain faithful to their iconic predecessors while offering a new and modernized look. No matter which type of coin you choose, these beloved coins will surely spark patriotism and pride for generations to come.