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 in Today’s Market
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 $25 USD according to CoinWeek IQ’s market analytics at the time of writing. 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. In MS66, the 1978-D has seen upward price movement in recent years. While it is possible to find one on eBay for less, winning bids at major auctions in recent months have exceeded $150, with CAC-approved coins realizing more than double that.
One reason for this jump is the step grade of MS66+. Coins at this level routinely sell in excess of $500. To date, there are only five coins certified by PCGS and four coins certified by NGC at the MS67 level. The most recent public auctions for MS67 1978-D Eisenhower dollar occurred in 2017, with a PCGS example bringing $7,050 at a Heritage auction, and an NGC example bringing $4,935, also at a Heritage auction. Neither coin was CAC-approved. From a combined population of nine coins, CAC has approved three at the MS67 level. We estimate in a private treaty sale, the retail price of a CAC MS67 1978-D would exceed $10,000.
That a coin still (notionally) circulating could vary in price from face value to $10,000 in an extreme case is one of the exhilarating and frightening aspects of collecting modern coins.
U.S. Mint Chief Engraver 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 1978 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 the Apollo 11 mission patch design by astronaut and Apollo 11 command module pilot Michael Collins’.
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”. This is the third variation of this reverse used to strike Eisenhower dollars. It was first deployed at the Philadelphia Mint in 1972 on the Type III dollar of that year.
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|
|Mint Mark:||D (Denver)|
|OBV Designer||Frank Gasparro|
|REV Designer||Frank Gasparro | Michael Collins|