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1971-S Eisenhower Dollar Proof : A Collector’s Guide

1971-S Eisenhower Dollar. Image: CoinWeek / Stack's Bowers.
1971-S Eisenhower Dollar. Image: CoinWeek / Stack’s Bowers.

By Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker for CoinWeek Notes …..
 

The Eisenhower dollar’s debut in 1971 marked a resumption of producing a circulating dollar coin for the first time since 1935. The size of the large dollar coin, as is the case with the dime, quarter dollar, and half dollar, was based on the dollar’s size when the law prescribed that the Mint produce these coins in 90% silver.

While the country’s need for new silver dollar coins was debatable, a popular sentiment was that honoring the late President Dwight D. Eisenhower with a coin was a good idea. The gaming industry also supported the coin as it would replace its dwindling stockpile of silver dollars it used to offer exciting payouts in its slot machines.

The bill authorizing the Mint to produce the new one-dollar coin was signed into law by President Richard M. Nixon (formerly Eisenhower’s Vice President) on December 31, 1970.

Despite Mint Director Mary Brooks’s urging, Congress did not authorize the Mint to strike the coins in 90% silver, as was the case with the older silver dollars. Instead, the new coin was to be produced in the same copper-nickel clad used for the dime, quarter, and half dollars struck starting in 1971. Nevertheless, as a compromise, Congress authorized the production of collector versions of the Eisenhower dollar in the 40% silver-clad alloy used to strike half dollars from 1965-1970, with proceeds from the sale going to the Eisenhower College in Seneca Falls, New York.

In 1971, these collector versions included a 40% silver circulation-strike coin and a 40% silver Proof. Both coins were struck at the San Francisco Assay Office and carry an S mint mark on the obverse.

1971-S Proof Eisenhower Dollar – Mamie Eisenhower Presentation Coin

1971-S Eisenhower Dollar enters production. U.S. Mint Press Release from March 29, 1971.
1971-S Eisenhower Dollar enters production. U.S. Mint Press Release from March 29, 1971.

The United States Mint began production of silver-clad Eisenhower dollars with an uncirculated finish in late March 1971. In a March 29, 1971, press release, the Mint announced that production of Proof versions would begin in July.

The Mint had not produced a Proof silver dollar since 1904 and needed the extra time to prepare the dies.

The first Proof issue was presented in a special box to Eisenhower’s widow, Mamie Eisenhower, at a July 27, 1971 ceremony. A photograph of President Nixon presenting the coin is published in the 1972 Report of the Director of the Mint.

In 2013, collector Andy Oskam purchased a 1971-S Eisenhower dollar from an eBay seller after noting that the coin’s “woodgrain” box differed from the type typically encountered. The box featured an embossed Presidential Seal and President Richard Nixon’s facsimile signature. Upon inspecting the coin, Oskam discovered that the Mint had used a low-relief circulation-strike die.

Collectors wonder whether this proto-Proof, with its unusual packaging, is connected to the July 1971 presentation ceremony. While the Nixon presentation box does not resemble the box in the published photograph from the event, the Mint could have created a special souvenir box to house the coins given to those in attendance.

Proof Sales Strong in Series’ First Year

The United States Mint set an order cut-off date of October 8, 1971. The first Proof coins were mailed to customers starting on Eisenhower’s birthday, October 14. Demand for the coin was strong, and the Mint sold 4,265,234 Proofs. To fulfill orders, the San Francisco Assay Office continued production of the 1971-S Eisenhower dollar into early 1972. The Mint fulfilled the final orders for the inaugural Proof issue in the Spring.

The mintage of the 1971-S Eisenhower dollar is the highest Proof mintage for any issue in the series. The second closest Proof coin is the 1976-S Eisenhower dollar, Type 2, Clad Proof. Given the widespread enthusiasm tied to celebrating the national Bicentennial, the fact that the 1971-S outsold that coin is impressive.

How Much Is the 1971-S Eisenhower Dollar Proof Worth?

Raw Coins

The Eisenhower dollar is a popularly collected coin that can be collected in raw form or as a certified coin.

When offered raw, collectors prefer coins in the original government packaging.

The United States Mint sold silver-clad Eisenhower dollar Proofs from 1971-1974, a faux woodgrain box with a gilded seal at the bottom right. A flocked red velvet shell fitted to the bottom of the box held the coin, which the Mint had mounted in a plastic case similar to the ones used by the GSA to sell the Treasury’s stockpile of Carson City Morgan dollars. Collectors and dealers call this the Brown Pack.

The value of the 1971-S Eisenhower Dollar Proof in this packaging largely depends on the melt value of silver. At current (February 2024) levels, the melt value of a 1971-S Eisenhower dollar is approximately $7.40. A survey of recent sales on eBay shows an average price of $10 for the 1971-S in original packaging.

As this packaging is not airtight, most examples listed show a light layer of haze on the coin’s surface and some degree of tarnish. In most cases, this tarnish does not rise to the level of what collectors would categorize as attractive toning. Coins with attractive toning will command a higher premium.

Certified Coins

Most 1971-S Eisenhower dollars in certified holders lack the haze that one typically encounters with raw coins. The absence of haze on most certified Eisenhower dollar Proof coins indicates that submitters dipped many if not most, Proof coins of this era before being sent to the grading services. CoinWeek has heard firsthand from bulk submitters that they dipped quantities of Eisenhower dollar Proofs before submission to give the coins a “fresh look.” Correctly done, this is an acceptable market practice.

1971-S Eisenhower Dollar in PCGS PR70DCAM. Image: Stack's Bowers.
1971-S Eisenhower Dollar in PCGS PR70DCAM. Image: Stack’s Bowers.

A more frustrating issue for collectors is grade distribution.

The population reports at NGC and PCGS indicates that the most common grade for Eisenhower dollar Proofs is Proof 69 Deep / Ultra Cameo. This grade distribution is not seen on other Proof coins of the era and calls into question why smaller coins do not routinely grade Proof 69, but the larger Eisenhower dollars do.

Eisenhower dollar specialists contend that a Proof 69 coin should appear extraordinary, given the technical limitations of Proof production in the early 1970s, yet not all Proof 69 coins “pop.”

As a result of the near uniformity of grades in the series, the typical Proof 69 1971-S Eisenhower dollar trades on sites like eBay for about $25. Be selective.

Another factor impacting the series is gradeflation. Proof 70 Eisenhower dollars were scarce-to-rare for most dates 10 to 15 years ago. In 2007, with just two certified at PCGS, this example sold at Heritage for $13,800. In 2016, nine years later, the total certified by PCGS had risen to 35. A year after that, PCGS reported grading 70 at 70. Today, the PCGS population has risen to 673 pieces. As a result, “perfect” coins have sold for as little as $288 in recent years.

Surprisingly, NGC has not certified a single 1971-S in Proof 70. Neither has CAC.

Deep Cameo Designation Also an Issue

Proper attribution of Deep Cameo / Ultra Cameo can also be a problem for the Eisenhower dollar series, not just for this issue, but for all dates except 1978, when the Mint changed its production process to provide a more consistent frost application on the devices.

1971-S Eisenhower Dollar with an inconsistent application of cameo frost. Image: CoinWeek.
1971-S Eisenhower Dollar with an inconsistent application of cameo frost. The thin scratch to the right of the date is on the holder, not the coin. Image: CoinWeek.

The coin in the photograph above was graded Proof 70 Deep Cameo by PCGS. As you can see, the frost detail in Eisenhower’s hair and on the right side of the moon is weak. A more appropriate grade attribution would have been Cameo or Cameo *. This naked-eye deficiency impacts the coin’s market value and shouldn’t be present on a “perfect” coin. We have seen similar issues on Eisenhower dollars graded by CAC and NGC.

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Market Data and Noteworthy Specimens

Top Population: PCGS PR-70DCAM (673, 2/2024). NGC PF-69UC (2,432, 2/2024). CAC PR-69DCAM (0:7, Stickered/Graded 2/2024).

  • PCGS PR-70DCAM #47838625: Heritage Auctions, November 22, 2023, Lot 27715 – $320.40. Frost weak on earth and right side of the moon.
  • PCGS PR-70DCAM #47930557: Stack’s Bowers, October 11, 2023, Lot 94633 – $660.
  • PCGS PR-70DCAM #40436831: Heritage Auctions, September 27, 2023, Lot 27548 – $372. Eisenhower 40th Anniversary Facsimile Signature label.
  • PCGS PR-70DCAM #84344484: “The George Schwenk Collection”, Stack’s Bowers, August 16, 2023, Lot 4043 – $660. Brilliant.
  • PCGS PR-70DCAM #80571953: Heritage Auctions, January 25, 2023, Lot 27862 – $384. David Hall signature label. Very weak cameo frost on the reverse.

1971-S Proof Eisenhower Dollar, Doubled Die Obverse, FS-103

1971-S Eisenhower Dollar, FS-103. Note the notches on IN GOD WE TRUST. Image: Heritage Auctions (visit www.ha.com).
1971-S Eisenhower Dollar, FS-103. Note the notches on IN GOD WE TRUST. Image: Heritage Auctions (visit www.ha.com).
  • PCGS PR-69DCAM #84314454: Heritage Auctions, July 20, 2023, Lot 3774 – $3,360.
  • PCGS PR-69CAM #33809175: Stack’s Bowers, November 9, 2022, Lot 13341 – $1,140.

1971-S Proof Eisenhower Dollar, Doubled Die Obverse, FS-106

  • PCGS PR-67DCAM QA #25202637: Stack’s Bowers, July 27, 2022, Lot 91846 – $240.

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Coin Specifications

Country: United States of America
Year Of Issue: 1971
Denomination: One Dollar (USD)
Mint Mark: S (San Francisco)
Mintage: 4,265,234
Alloy: .800 Silver, .200 Copper Outer, with .790 Copper, .210 Silver Core
Weight: 24.6 g
Diameter: 38.5 mm
Edge: Reeded
OBV Designer: Frank Gasparro
REV Designer: Frank Gasparro | Michael Collins and James Cooper
Quality: Proof

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CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes presents expert analysis and insights from Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker, the award-winning editors of CoinWeek.com.

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