The American Gold Eagle is an official gold bullion coin of the United States. Authorized under the Gold Bullion Coin Act of 1985, it was first released by the United States Mint in 1986. Offered in 1/10 oz, 1/4 oz, 1/2 oz, and 1 oz denominations, these coins are guaranteed by the U.S. government to contain the stated amount of actual gold weight in troy ounces.
By law, the gold must come from sources in America, with an additional alloy of silver and copper to produce a more wear-resistant coin of .9167 (22 karat, which had long been the crown gold English standard for gold coins). It is authorized by the United States Congress and is backed by the United States Mint for weight and content.
The obverse design features a rendition of Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ full length figure of Lady Liberty with flowing hair, holding a torch in her right hand and an olive branch in her left, with the Capitol building in the left background. The reverse design, by sculptor Miley Busiek, features a male eagle carrying an olive branch flying above a nest containing a female eagle and her hatchlings.
The market value of the coins is generally about equal to the market value of their gold content, not their face value. (As of January 2008 the $5, $10, $25, and $50 coins by face value are worth and sell for about $110, $225, $450, and $900 USD respectively. Their actual selling prices vary daily based on the current spot price of gold.) The American Gold Eagle may be used to fund one government sanctioned Individual Retirement Account (IRA).
The United States Mint also produces a proof version for coin collectors. These coins are for the most part produced at the West Point Mint in West Point, New York and carry the mint’s mark (“W”) beneath the date.
Aside from the proof version, the United States Mint does not sell American Eagle Bullion coins directly to the public. Instead, the Mint distributes uncirculated Bullion coins through a network of wholesalers, brokerage companies, precious metal firms, coin dealers, and participating banks, a network known as Authorized Purchasers. You can purchase American Eagle Gold Bullion Coins from most major coin and precious metals dealers, as well as brokerage houses and participating banks. The U.S. Mint publishes a list of authorized dealers.