While large silver dollar coins saw little practical circulation in America’s more populated regions, the coins did see use in the American West, where the durability of metal over paper gave coins a clear advantage. Nowhere did American silver dollars flow more freely than at the gambling cities of Reno and Las Vegas, where silver dollars were the currency of choice for casino slot machines.
However, as demand for these silver dollars increased, the supply began to dwindle. Treasury stockpiles of the coins dwindled in the 1960s, which left the gaming industry with a bit of a dilemma. With the March 1969 death of Dwight D. Eisenhower, Congressional openness to reintroducing a circulating dollar coin to honor the former president took root.
Mint Director Mary Brooks initially lobbied for the coin to be struck in silver, continuing with tradition. However, Congress had no interest in continuing to produce circulating coins in silver. The Coinage Act of 1965 called for the removal of silver from America’s dimes and quarters and reduced the silver content of half dollars from .900 fine to a 40% silver-clad composition. In the five years since the composition change, silver coins all but disappeared from circulation and the silver-clad Kennedy half dollars saw very limited use.
Signed into law by President Richard M. Nixon on December 31, 1970, the Bank Holding Company Act Amendments of 1970 authorized the production of the Cu-Ni clad Eisenhower dollar for circulation. The Act also allowed for the production of numismatic versions struck from a 40% silver composition to be sold at a significant premium over face value to collectors. These coins would be produced at the San Francisco Mint and sold directly by the United States Mint. The Act also carried an important provision that authorized the General Services Administration (GSA) to sell 2.8 million Carson City Morgan dollars from the vaults of the United States Treasury.
1971-D Eisenhower Dollars Were Struck First
The Denver Mint was the first mint to strike Eisenhower dollars in 1971, beating the Philadelphia Mint by a few weeks. In total, the Denver Mint produced 68,587,424 1971-D Eisenhower dollars, while the Philadelphia Mint struck 47,799,000 coins. These were significant numbers compared to the mintages of the later mintages of America’s Morgan and Peace silver dollars.
Creating a Cu-Ni Eisenhower dollar–a large, silver-dollar format coin–proved to be quite a technical challenge. Despite the fact that the Denver Mint’s presses were older than the presses at the newly finished Philadelphia facility, the Denver Mint typically produced better dollar coins.
Coins struck at Denver typically have a sharper, cleaner look. Many are fully lustrous, and some were struck on highly polished planchets. By contrast, most Philadelphia issues appear dull, lacking in luster, and have residual annealing chatter marks on the high points of the relief (typically on Eisenhower’s chin and hair).
Despite this overall cleaner look, the 1971-D Eisenhower dollar does have a tendency to show significant amounts of die sink along the bottom periphery. On the coin illustrated above, you can see evidence of this along the bottom of the design through the date and flattening the first few letters of the motto: IN GOD WE TRUST.
How Much Are 1971-D Eisenhower Dollars Worth?
For coins struck after World War II, Mint Sets have serves as the primary source for high quality uncirculated coins for any given date. The tradition of producing mint sets dates back to the late 1940s, when they first debuted. Initially, these sets included two examples of each coin – one mounted face up and one face down in cardboard holders. This allowed collectors to admire both sides of the coin without removing them from the packaging.
In 1959, the Mint replaced the cardboard-mounted double mint set with a single coin mint set that housed one coin of each denomination from each mint in a cellophane holder. Curiously, the Mint did not redesign this packaging to include Eisenhower dollars until 1973. The implications of this is that the 2,193,396 uncirculated sets sold of the Mint’s 1971 coins do not include uncirculated examples of the Eisenhower dollar, which means that there are far fewer uncirculated 1971 and 1971-D Eisenhower dollars in the market than there are for coins issued from 1973 to 1978.
Americans did save quantities of the 1971-D Eisenhower Dollar, however. It is common that the American public demonstrates added enthusiasm for saving the first or last coin in a series. The first coin is saved out of enthusiasm for a new design and the desire to save one, or more, as souvenirs. The last coin is saved as a way to preserve a moment in time. By our estimation more 1971 Eisenhower dollars were saved in Mint State than 1972 dollars.
So what are 1971-D Eisenhower dollars worth? The answer is surprising. At a minimum, a 1971-D Eisenhower dollar has a face value of $1, which means that it can be used to buy $1 worth of goods, even today. Coin collectors are willing to pay between $3 and $10 for 1971-D Eisenhower dollars in About Uncirculated / Uncirculated condition.
The value of the coin increases dramatically in high uncirculated grades starting at MS65 and above. One caveat though, generally speaking, when modern coins are attributed as being graded MS65 or MS66, collectors expect that coins have been professionally graded and encapsulated in CAC, NGC, or PCGS holders.
In Mint State 65, the 1971-D carries a price of about $30 according to CoinWeek IQ’s current market analytics. It is a first-year-of-issue and type coin that carries a significant numismatic premium in ultra-high grades (or if it is a gem-quality “Friendly Eagle Variety” – more on that in a moment).
In Mint State 67, auction records indicate that the value of this issue at this level has fallen dramatically from where it was four or five years ago when a typical example might bring $1,500. These prices dropped to about $600 in 2020 and has since come back to about $900 today. Stack’s Bowers sold a mid-range example graded PCGS MS67 for $840 in April 2023.
The three finest examples that we’ve ever seen are the two MS67s from the Richland Ikes Collection, assembled by Ike Group founder Andy Oskam, and another MS67 that was part of Troy Weaver’s amazing registry set (now owned by Del Loy Hansen). Weaver’s example was a Peg Leg (die polished R) variety with a Talon clash mark on Ike’s forehead.
But perhaps the best of all was the modestly-toned NGC MS68 that brought an eye-popping $8,225 at a March 2020 Legend Rare Coin Auction. This has to be the highest price ever paid for a 1971-D clad Ike dollar and to date, PCGS has certified no coins at this level.
The 1971-D (RDV-006) “Friendly Eagle Variety”
Discovered in 1999 by variety specialist Dr. James Wiles and popularized in the subsequent decade by the Ike Group, the 1971-D “Friendly Eagle Variety” is a naked-eye-visible variety that is not as easy to cherrypick as it once was (you can blame CoinWeek Editor Charles Morgan for lobbying for the coin to get into the Cherrypicker’s Guide’s 5th edition and the Red Book).
The Friendly Eagle features a rounded Earth (the regular issue is not as perfectly round at the upper left area of the globe). On that rounded Earth, you will see a rounded and distinctly carved out Gulf of Mexico and a distinct chain of islands in the Caribean. The eagle’s brow is softer (one might say “friendlier”) than the standard issue. There is no heavy separation apparent in the relief between the top two of the eagle’s tailfeathers on this variety. Also, the lines leading up to the impact ejecta “lines” of the crater are longer, more distinct, and bracket the second L in DOLLAR. In Very Early Die State, some FEVs show a contrail-shaped die scratch bordering the upper left portion of the globe. This feature was discovered by Ike Group member Brian Vaile.
As for scarcity, the Friendly Eagle is not rare but probably represents no more than one million to 1.5 million of the issue’s 68,587,424 struck. Ike dollar specialists consider this a major variety and a semi-key to the series, the key being the 1972 “Type 2” variety.
In MS65, the FEV sells for $100-$125. To date, PCGS reports 66 examples in MS66 with 3 in MS66+. No MS66+ has sold at public auction. MS66 examples have sold for $500 or more. One example, sold in July 21, 2022 by Heritage Auctions slipped through the cracks after the firm misrepresented its population data and offered collectors no information about the variety in the lot description. In that instance, the lucky buyer was able to acquire a $400-$500 coin for $204.
To our knowledge, no finer coins have been certified by NGC. Both services charge a fee to attribute this variety.
Frank Gasparro’s portrait of Dwight D. Eisenhower (as president); Eisenhower facing to the left. Gasparro’s initials “FG” appear raised in the bust truncation. Beneath Eisenhower’s chin, to the left, is the motto “IN GOD WE TRUST” LIBERTY wraps around the top of the coin in the space between the rim and the top of Eisenhower’s head. The date wraps around the bottom of the design, between the rim and the bottom of Eisenhower’s bust truncation. While Philadelphia-struck pieces bear no mintmark, coins struck at Denver and San Francisco will bear small mintmarks of “D” or “S” above the space between the last two digits of the date. On Eisenhower dollars, mintmarks were hand-punched and may vary in exact location and orientation.
The reverse is based on Michael Collins’ Apollo 11 Mission Patch design.
In the center, a bald eagle in descent. In its talons, an olive branch. Its left wing is raised. The lunar surface lies below. Above the eagle’s head is a depiction of the Earth. North America is prominently visible. Wrapping around the top of the coin adjacent to the rim is the legend “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.” Thirteen small five-point stars circle around the eagle. Below the ring of stars but above the eagle is the motto “E PLURIBUS UNUM”. Wrapping around the bottom of the design is the denomination “ONE DOLLAR”.
The edge of the 1971-D Eisenhower dollar is reeded.
Frank Gasparro was a friend to numismatists and served as Chief Engraver of the United States Mint from 1965 to 1981 (View Designer’s Profile).
|Year Of Issue:||1971|
|Denomination:||One Dollar (USD)|
|Mint Mark:||D (Denver)|
|OBV Designer||Frank Gasparro|
|REV Designer||Frank Gasparro | Michael Collins|
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