Mail Bag – What is a Burnished Coin?

Today’s Mail Bag question comes from Rebecca G regarding the term “burnished”. It is a term that gets tossed about a lot but it can lead to question as to what exactly it means.

Rebecca writes,


I was reading about a 2006-W ASE (editor: American Silver Eagle) and it mentioned that it was burnished. What does that mean and why is this coin so much more than other ASE coins?

Rebecca G’s email

This is a great question Rebecca and I suspect others have the same question.

Simply put, the term burnished refers to a unique finish that the United States Mint applies to bullion coins. From the Mint’s perspective, they simply refer to these as uncirculated but starting in 2006, the silver American Eagle began appearing with this type of finish. That is why starting in 2006, the W mint mark started appearing on the silver American Eagle and continues through today. That W mint mark denotes when this new finish began in the series.

From a technical perspective, a burnished coin appears matte (less shiny) when you compare them to regular uncirculated coins. In the case of the American Eagle, take a look at one from 1986 and one from 2006. The difference is apparent at first glance. To achieve this look, the Mint places the coin’s planchets (the coin blanks) into a drum where they are subjected to spinning along with millions of 6mm ball polishing media. After this is completed, the coins are struck with these planchets which gives them this matte finish look.

Take a look at this 1986 American Eagle

1986 Silver American Eagle
1986 Silver American Eagle

Now take a look at the 2019-W American Eagle. The difference, even in these static shots, is pretty clear to see.

2019 American Silver Eagle
2019 American Silver Eagle

To be clear, the US Mint has applied the burnished look to other coins, most notably the America The Beautiful 5 ounce coins. But for the most part, it is used on the American Eagle.

As for your second question Rebecca, as to why the 2006-W American Eagle carries a premium, it comes down to two reasons. First, this was the first Eagle struck with the W mint mark. Second, it is the first year of the new burnished finish.

Thanks for your question Rebecca and I hope this answers your question. If you have a question, use the contact form on the About page here at

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