1972: A Make-or-Break Year for the Eisenhower Dollar
In 1972, a year after the initial buzz… and then thud… of the release of the new Eisenhower dollar coin, the United States Mint continued its work to refine and improve Cheif Engraver Frank Gasparro’s design. A number of subtle changes were undertaken by the Mint’s engraving department, including a mid-year change in the quality of die steel used to strike the hard copper-nickel clad circulating coins.
That there was little demand for the large-format dollar did not dissuade the government from striking almost 170 million coins at the Denver and Philadelphia mints. At Denver, coin production more-or-less went smoothly, while at Philadelphia, minor tweaks (and possibly die mixups) led to the creation of three major varieties, known by “Ike” collectors as 1972 Type I, Type II, and Type III dollars.
A second variant of the Eisenhower dollar was produced not for circulation but for collectors and was struck in a 40% silver-clad composition. Before 1965, all United States dimes, quarters, and half dollars were struck in a .900 fine silver composition. Dollar coins, not produced since 1935, would have also followed suit had production been ongoing. This changed with the passage of the Coinage Act of 1965, which removed silver entirely from dimes and quarters and reduced its fineness in the half dollar to 40%. The Act did one other thing as well. It prohibited the production of dollar coins until 1970, at which time Congress would reevaluate the need for such a coin.
The Silver-Clad Eisenhower Dollar Issued as a Compromise
The death of former President Dwight D. Eisenhower on March 28, 1969, gave dollar coin advocates a reason to support the release of a new coin, but a question remained regarding the continued use of the 40% silver composition. The Mint, for its part, was satisfied with removing silver entirely and assisted the Treasury Department in separating pre-64 silver issues from federal holdings and melting down the obsolete coins. By the end of 1969, a majority of the silver dimes, quarters, and half dollars in circulation had been withdrawn by speculators, collectors, and the Government.
A large faction in Congress supporting the production of a new dollar coin pushed for the Cu-Ni clad composition, but there were others, like Representative H.R. Gross (R-IA3), who found the idea of a “scrap metal” dollar coin to be an insult to the memory of the former president. Gross’ opinions were shared by many in the Senate but stood in opposition to the prevailing sentiment of the House, which had coalesced around the cause of seeing to the complete removal of silver from American circulating coinage.
The compromise spelled out in the bill, signed into law by President Richard M. Nixon just before midnight on December 31, 1970, approved the striking of up to 150 million silver-clad dollars, drawing from Treasury stockpiles of silver for the coin’s production. These silver-clad coins would form the basis of the collector issues struck in Proof and Uncirculated formats at the San Francisco Assay Office.
The 1972-S Eisenhower Dollar Uncirculated Issue Corrected Quality Control Issues
The 1971-S Uncirculated issue, as an earlier CoinWeek profile points out, was a quality-control disaster. And given the high price above face value that the U.S. Mint was charging for the coin, both the collecting community and the general public were not happy. The Mint explained these flaws by stating that the coins were produced in the same way as a regular coin would be struck for circulation, but that wasn’t entirely true. Many of the 1971-S coins looked milky, with improperly prepared planchets. Author Rob Ezerman also points out that many suffered post-strike damage due to the careless way in which the coins were shipped from San Francisco to Denver for packaging.
Whatever happened in 1971 to cause that issue to stand out among the poorest-quality postwar issues the Mint had produced had been addressed by the time the 1972-S Uncirculated dollars went into production. As it stands, the 1972-S Eisenhower dollar (“Blue Pack“) Uncirculated coin is the 1881-S Morgan of the series – which is to say that, by a very great degree, the quality of this issue is unparalleled. It is significantly better than the 1971-S, marginally better than the 1974-S, and clearly better than the 1973-S.
How Much Is the 1972-S Eisenhower Dollar Uncirculated Coin Worth?
The 1972-S Eisenhower Dollar Uncirculated coin sells for a range of prices from $14 to $3,500 USD. There are a great number of claims online that this date is worth up to $10,000, but that simply isn’t true.
To understand why a coin that is readily available on sites like eBay for $14 to $20 could sometimes sell for thousands of dollars, you have to understand the market for certified coins. A certified coin has been authenticated, graded, and encapsulated by an industry-accepted third party grading service. The coin hobby in the United States recognizes three major companies: CAC, NGC, and PCGS. CAC is a newcomer to the encapsulation business, but their CAC-approved green oval stickers have created a major market for premium quality coins over the course of the past 15 years. NGC and PCGS have graded far more coins, however, and most of the certified 1972-S Eisenhower dollars that appear on the market have been graded by one of these two services.
From a quality standpoint, the 1972-S Eisenhower dollar uncirculated coin is a much higher quality release than the 1971-S. Certified populations at PCGS and NGC bear out the story of how the 1972-S is a far superior coin. With nearly 25,000 submissions, the typical 1972-S certified by PCGS grades either MS66 or MS67, with 3,215 earning MS68. Today, the PCGS MS69 certified population stands at 34 pieces, a 19-coin increase from where this top-pop grade sat a little over a decade ago.
At NGC, certified populations follow a similar trajectory, although NGC pops are significantly lower due to the lower submission volume. The overwhelming majority of all coins submitted to NGC (5,418) grade either MS66 or MS67. Six hundred and forty-five earn NGC’s MS68 grade, while just 15 have been put into MS69 holders.
CAC has to-date graded only three 1972-S Eisenhower Dollar uncirculated coins at their new Virginia Beach grading center, but have applied the CAC approval sticker on 191 coins at the MS68 level. These coins traditionally sell for a premium over coins without the sticker in the same grade.
The highest price paid for a 1972-S Eisenhower dollar at auction is $3,680 USD, paid for a superior quality example offered at an April 2011 Heritage sale. A few have sold for slightly higher figures in private sales carried out between 2014 and 2016. With the rising population, the price for a top-pop 1972-S Eisenhower dollar has softened somewhat, but we feel that the coin is stable at $2,600.
At more affordable price points, collectors have a decision to make.
In grades MS67 and below, a certified Eisenhower dollar is simply a typical Blue Pack example housed in a trackable certified holder. Given the unstable nature of the original government packaging, there is a clear benefit to paying a small premium for a specimen in an inert holder. But since the packaging is the only thing that separates a certified coin from a typical example at this grade, the upside long-term is limited. We advise this grade only for collectors with serious budgetary constraints, or for those simply looking to build a type set on a budget. For Eisenhower dollar set registry collectors, a better alternative is MS68 or MS68+. MS68 examples routinely sell for about $100. Don’t be afraid to pay a slight premium for one that is particularly nice – especially one with CAC approval.
Prices for MS68+ examples have come down as the population in this grade has approached the total of all coins graded MS69. Here, you can have a coin that is, for all intents and purposes, on par with MS69 examples but for a deep discount. $500 seems to be the going rate, but a serious specialist would pay $1,000 – $1,500 for a superior example that would likely (one day) upgrade to MS69.
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 and below Eisenhower’s neck. On Eisenhower dollars, mintmarks were hand-punched and may vary in exact location and orientation.
The reverse is based on astronaut 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 1972-S 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:||1972|
|Denomination:||One Dollar (USD)|
|Mint Mark:||S (San Francisco)|
|Mintage:||2,1933,056 (incl. 22,000 struck in 1973)|
|Alloy:||Outer layer: .800 silver and .200 copper; Inner layer: .791 copper and .209 silver; ASW: .3161 oz.|
|OBV Designer||Frank Gasparro|
|REV Designer||Frank Gasparro | Michael Collins|
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