The US Mint has several locations throughout the country. The West Point Mint is the primary location for the production of precious metal bullion coins. When demand necessitates, the Philadelphia Mint and the San Francisco Mint are used for the ancillary production of American Silver Eagles, usually leading up to the new calendar year.
Between 2014 and 2017, the West Point Mint produced nearly 108 million American Silver Eagles, while the Philadelphia and San Francisco Mints produced nearly 17 million. It came to the attention of Coin World that multiple facilities had struck the 2017 Silver Eagles, and they requested specific mintages, broken down by facility, from the US Mint. However, the mint refused to provide this information. Coin World then filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request on February 6, 2017. FOIA provides the public and the media with the right to access information that may have been withheld from the federal government.
The US Mint supplied a response letter on March 20, which included an ASE production breakdown by date and facility.
West Point Mint
- 2014: 23,450,000 ASEs
- 2015: 46,920,500 ASEs
- 2016: 31,900,000 ASEs
- 2017: 5,425,000 ASEs
- 2014: 0 ASEs
- 2015: 79,640 ASEs
- 2016: 1,151,500 ASEs
- 2017: 1,000,000 ASEs
San Francisco Mint
- 2014: 7,025,000 ASEs
- 2015: 0 ASEs
- 2016: 4,650,000 ASEs
- 2017: 3,000,000 ASEs
American Silver Eagles do not carry mint marks, and regardless of the minting facility, they should be indistinguishable from each other. Coin collectors and numismatists, however, attempt to identify coins’ mint facilities, and It was findings by the coin grading experts at the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) that prompted the question to the US Mint about minting locations.
NGC officials discovered a pattern in the serial numbers of the ASEs found within monster boxes, which contain 500 tubed coins. The pattern suggested that more than one mint facility was responsible for producing the coins. NGC officials also began to speculate that the quality of ASEs may vary from one minting facility to the next.
This prompted Coin World to also ask for an explanation of the serial numbers in their FOIA filing, which was provided in the mint’s response. It said that all monster boxes from the West Point Mint were marked with six-digit numbers beginning with 1, 2, or 3.
The Philadelphia Mint’s numbering system followed two standards. 2015 ASE monster box serial numbers included five-digit number beginning with 1. 2016 and 1017 ASE monster box serial numbers included six-digit number beginning with 5.
The San Francisco Mint used red banding on monster boxes for 2014 ASEs to differentiate where they were produced. 2016 and 1017 ASE monster box serial numbers included six-digit numbers beginning with 4.
The US Mint used to employ color-coded bands for each facility. However, during the past year, the mint switched to using generic straps to secure full monster boxes. Now the only way to determine the mint facility is by using the serial number system.