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Rare American Coins and the 1981 American Trial Silver Dollar

The US Essay Commission was formed by the Currency Act of 1792 and continued to function until 1971, when precious metals were no longer used in American circulating currency.

In 1977, no member of the commission was appointed. Then, in 1980, President Jimmy Carter signed legislation to completely abolish the Essay Commission.

These one-ounce silver dollars from the 1981 Essay have been converted into rare American coins, not produced by the US Mint.

The Assay Commission’s role was to oversee the annual testing of the final year gold, silver, and base metal coins produced by the United States Mint to ensure they met specifications. Beginning in 1797, it met most of the years at the Philadelphia Mint.

In the late 1960s, the Defense Logistics Agency had more than 165 million ounces of silver in its reserves. The Federal Government sold much of this silver on the open market in 1980 and 1981.

After the US Mint stopped using silver in circulating coins, the US government felt compelled to sell some of its reserves to the public to stabilize the high silver market partially created by the Hunt brothers who hoarded large amounts of silver.

The Continental Coin Company of California purchased a large quantity of this silver from US government Treasury reserves.They proceeded to mint 1 oz rounds, as well as 10 oz and 100 oz bars in 1981.

They made sure everyone knew it was made from silver that had been stored in the San Francisco Assay Office by boldly stating US STORAGE SILVER AQUAQUE and Formerly stored at US ASSAY OFFICE SAN FRANCISCO. Many people who buy these bullion products continue to think that they were minted by the United States Mint in San Francisco for the Bureau of Assays.

The CC on the reverse stands for Continental Coin instead of Carson City, further adding to the confusion. These rounds of bullion are even represented by sellers as minted by the US government for the purpose of public distribution.

The obverse features an American bald eagle flying in front of the US flag.The legend above the eagle reads “One troy ounce 31.1 grams” and the legend below reads “Commercial unit of .999 fine silver” with olive branches in between. the words around the edge. The design is reminiscent of coins from the US Mint, but not as detailed.

The center back reads “Formerly Stored at the US Bureau of Testing in San Francisco” with the CC logo underneath. The legend “Minted From US Strategic Stockpile Silver” is around the edge, and the 1981 date is flanked by 3 stars on each side.

These are only slightly harder to find than Engelhard Prospectors or other silver bullion rounds, but they are not exactly rare American coins. They are an example of the history of American precious metal bullion that preceded the Prospector by a year.

The 10 oz and 100 oz silver bullion bars have similar details stamped on them, but they are not so easily confused with actual US Mint products. They look like standard bullion bars.

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