The End of the Era of the Large Dollar Coin
The era of the big dollar coin was already coming to a close when the United States Mint struck the last 59,000,000 Eisenhower dollar coins for circulation at the Denver and Philadelphia mints. Denver had the honor of striking slightly more, and as had been the case through the entire series, struck them better than the coin operators at the mother mint.
The copper-nickel clad large dollar came into existence in 1971 as a memorial to the recently passed and beloved war-hero-turned President Dwight D. Eisenhower. As Americans faced the daily horrors that played out on the nightly news reporting from Vietnam, the sentiment to honor one of America’s last great war heroes overrode all other concerns and another dollar coin was born.
Throughout the series’ eight-year run, production of the coin swung from as high as 113 million to as low as 1.76 million. The high came during the American Bicentennial year of 1976 at the Philadelphia Mint. The low came from the 1973 emission, where coins were struck for the annual Mint Set (although at least one bag of 1973 coins has been reported as having been released into the wild).
The 1978-D’s mintage of 33,102,890 coins puts the issue as the fourth-highest Denver mintage of the series. It is by all accounts a typical issue from this late-modern-era U.S. coin series.
The 1978-D Eisenhower Dollar
The year 1978 saw the Eisenhower dollar, short-lived though it was, come to a close. On October 10, President Jimmy Carter signed into law legislation authorizing the production of a new smaller dollar coin measuring 26.5mm and weighing 8.1 grams made of the same Cu-Ni clad composition that had been put into use for dimes and quarters since 1965 and was used for the larger circulating Eisenhower dollar coins. Production of the new smaller dollar coin began on December 13, 1978.
Before this transition to a new smaller dollar coin got underway, however, the Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco Mints struck the Eisenhower dollar for one final year. The Philadelphia and Denver Mints struck Cu-Ni clad versions for circulation, while the San Francisco branch struck Cu-Ni clad Proofs. The Denver Mint’s output of 33,012,890 pieces was the highest mintage for the year and represents an end of an era for the Denver Mint’s production of the circulating large-format dollar coin.
How Much Are 1978-D Eisenhower Dollars Worth?
The Eisenhower dollar is popularly collected two ways: as a raw coin and as a certified coin with an assigned grade from a major grading service such as PCGS or NGC. Raw coins come from circulation or from the Mint’s annual Uncirculated coin set. Given the ready availability of Uncirculated examples, coins that have shown wear from use or exhibit any atypical flaws or distracting features are not considered desirable and can be safely spent at face value.
Uncirculated examples, either from bags, rolls, or Mint Sets, carry a premium of about four to 10 times face value based on the typical price of completed transactions on eBay. A numismatist that is extremely knowledgeable about the market with professional-level grading skills may pay more for a premium raw coin because they intend to have the coin certified. Even a great coin with the potential to earn a high grade will sell for a discount if sold raw, except in extraordinary circumstances.
In Mint State 65, the 1978-D carries a price of about $18 according to CoinWeek IQ’s current market analytics. This low price does not reflect the difficulty in cherrypicking Gem-quality Eisenhower dollars of this issue in the wild. Mint Set coins tend to have the best strikes, but this is a trend and not a rule. A large quantity of 1978-D dollars were found among the 223,000 coin Eisenhower dollar hoard marketed by Littleton Coin Company in 2011 and dubbed “The Big Sky Hoard” because it was discovered in a Montana bank vault.
In MS66, the 1978-D sells for about $100, but can, from time to time, sell on eBay for $65-$75 if the seller does not employ professional listing or photography practices. Curiously, a batch of four CAC-approved 1978-D Eisenhower dollars sold in October 2020 at Heritage for $200-$400 each. We do not believe that the date is worth $200-$400, even with CAC approval.
Denver Mint coins were struck better than those struck at Philadelphia and finding Gem-quality 1978-D Ike dollars with nice eye appeal is not so difficult as to assert such a premium… at least not at MS66. Advancing to MS67 is another story. In MS67, PCGS boasts a certified population of just four examples, the last one selling in 2017 for $7,050. That example was not the finest of the then four known, based on our observation of coins in the finest Eisenhower dollar registry sets. Today, PCGS reports nine examples at this grade and in January 2022, a sale of a lightly toned example graded MS67 was reported on eBay at a record price of $8,750.
CAC has so far graded 58 coins, none finer than MS66, but it has stickered four coins at the MS67 level. NGC reports 21 coins at MS67.
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 1978-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:||1978|
|Denomination:||One Dollar (USD)|
|Mint Mark:||None (Philadelphia)|
|OBV Designer||Frank Gasparro|
|REV Designer||Frank Gasparro | Michael Collins|
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