The 1991-S Proof American Silver Eagle appeared from the United States Mint as the sixth annual release of the Proof Silver Eagle series. This 1991-dated Eagle featured the same specifications and designs as previously released versions as well as those that would follow including being struck from one ounce of .999 fine silver.
Interest in the series apparently waned during this period, however, as mintage for the strike was down from 1990 and would continue to slide during the next three years. Still, with hundreds of thousands sold, it remained one of the most popular numismatic products of the United States Mint that year and the series is perhaps even more popular today.
One of the main reasons for that popularity has to be the designs found on the coin. When Congress authorized the related bullion Silver Eagles that started the program, it only required the obverse to feature Liberty and the reverse to show an eagle. The design of Liberty chosen for the obverse was actually taken from one of the most beloved coins in American history – the 1916-1947 half dollar.
It depicted a design of "Walking Liberty" by Adolph A. Weinman that would eventually be noted by many as one of the most beautiful ever to be featured on an American coin. The reverse of the Silver Eagle shows a heraldic eagle with shield as designed by US Mint engraver John Mercanti.
The 1991 Proof Silver Eagle was struck at the US Mint’s facility in San Francisco. Shown on the reverse of the coin is an ‘S’ mintmark indicating that production location.
Also available that year were bullion Silver Eagles, however, these proof coins varied from the bullion variety in several distinct ways. First, the bullion coins feature a bullion finish as opposed to the proof finish. Proof coins are described as being struck multiple times with special dies on specially burnished blanks which results in a highly detailed frosted image and a mirror-like background.
Second, bullion coins contain no mintmark whereas these proof have the aforementioned ‘S’ mintmark. Finally, the proof coins were sold directly to the public with a significant premium attached with bullion Silver Eagles sold through a network of authorized purchasers for a small premium above the current spot price of silver.
1991 Silver Eagle Mintages
Only 511,924 of the 1991-S Proof American Silver Eagles were sold by the United States Mint which was a decrease of over 180,000 from the previous year. Each was offered for $23.00 a piece which was the same price charged the previous few years for the coin.
In comparison, the Mint recorded a total of 7,191,066 of the related 1991 bullion Silver Eagles sold. However, as previously noted, bullion Silver Eagles are sold for just a small premium above spot. The average London Fix for Silver for 1991 was $4.05 an ounce.