Why Was the 1971 Eisenhower Dollar Made?
Even though the United States had no real need for a large dollar coin at the start of the 1970s, the gaming industry developed an acute need to find a replacement for the silver dollars it used to feed tens of thousands of slot machines. This “need”, and the recent passing of beloved war-hero-turned-President Dwight D. Eisenhower, presented Congress with an opportunity to cater to the needs of the industry. While United States Mint Director Mary Brooks lobbied for the coin to be struck in silver, Congress instead chose to strike the coin for circulation in the same copper-nickel (Cu-Ni) clad composition in use for the dime and quarter dollar. In a compromise, silver-clad versions were authorized to be struck and sold to collectors.
Signed into law by President Richard M. Nixon (formerly Eisenhower’s Vice President) on December 31, 1970, the Bank Holding Company Act Amendments of 1970 authorized the production of the coin.
(Incidentally, the amendments also authorized the General Services Administration (GSA) to sell 2.8 million Carson City Morgan dollars from the vaults of the United States Treasury.)
First-year production totals were large (47,799,000 for the 1971 Eisenhower Dollars struck at the Philadelphia Mint and 68,587,424 for the Denver-Mint-produced 1971-D Eisenhower Dollars) but paled when compared to the mintage of the 1971 Kennedy half dollar, which was struck in Cu-Ni clad for the first time this same year. While hundreds of millions of Eisenhower dollars were struck, with many millions entering circulation, the coin was more of a novelty item than a useful coin for the purposes of commerce.
How Much Is the 1971 Eisenhower Dollar Worth?
The 1971 Eisenhower dollar is worth a wide range of prices, from $1 for a beat-up circulated example, to potentially $10,000 or more dollars for virtually flawless examples in the Superb Gem grade of MS67. Finer examples have yet to be certified.
Why would a modern coin have such a range of values? The answer lies in the coin’s production history.
Creating a Cu-Ni Eisenhower dollar–a large silver-dollar format coin–proved to be quite a technical challenge. The Denver Mint, which began production of the coin a few weeks before Philadelphia, fared better. Coins struck at Denver have a sharper, cleaner look. Some even appear to have been struck on highly polished planchets. 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).
As the business strike Eisenhower dollar was not issued in U.S. Mint annual sets until 1973, examples that survive in Mint State were originally saved from circulation. Because of this, uncirculated examples of the 1971 (P) issue are worth slightly more than issues struck in 1974 forward. The 1973 is a Mint Set-only issue and carries a slight premium, but truthfully, the 1971 (P) and 1972 (P) issues are more difficult to source in Mint State and should be worth more because of that.
In Mint State 65, the 1971 (P) carries a price of about $80 according to CoinWeek IQ’s current market analytics. This is significantly down from the pricing levels the coin has traded at in recent years. Rising TPG populations and a malaise in the modern coin market bears some responsibility. True gems with great eye appeal can sell for many times more. Our MS66 market price for the issue, as of November 2023, is about $600. CAC coins with very high eye appeal can bring premiums over this number.
Eisenhower Dollar Design
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 very in exact location and orientation.
The reverse is based on Michael Collins’ Apollo 11 Mission Patch design.
In the center, a bald eagle is 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 Philadephia 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:||None (Philadelphia)|
|OBV Designer||Frank Gasparro|
|REV Designer||Frank Gasparro | Michael Collins|
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