While the country-at-large’s desire for a large dollar coin at the start of the 1970s was hardly demonstrable, 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 the coin. Incidentally, they also authorized the General Services Administration (GSA) to sell 2.8 million Carson City Morgan dollars from the vaults of the United States Treasury.
The striking of silver-clad Eisenhower dollars for collectors was controversial. Not only was the cost charged by the United States Mint for the coins excessive, but a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the collector versions was earmarked for the recently-established Eisenhower College in Seneca Falls, New York, which, thanks to Public Law 93-441, was set to receive a dispersal of “one-tenth of all the moneys derived from the sale of $1 [Eisenhower] proof coins”, with 10% of the total moneys received by the college being transferred to the campus’s Samuel Rayburn Library, with a maximum allocation $9 million. In 1975, Congress raised that number by authorizing an additional appropriation of $1 million (Public Law 94-41).
As a circulating coin, the Eisenhower dollar did not fare any better than the Morgan and Peace dollars that preceded it. More than 200 million were struck in the program’s first two years but in 1973 the coin was struck only for collectors. Regular production resumed at lower levels in 1974, surged in 1975-1976 due to the Bicentennial celebration, and was lower again through 1978. The Eisenhower dollar was replaced by the Susan B. Anthony dollar in 1979.
1973 (P) Eisenhower Dollar
The United States Mint reported a total production run of two million 1973 Mint Sets. Ultimately, 1,769,258 sets sold and the remaining 230,742 1973 (P) and D-mintmark Eisenhower dollars were destroyed. This has long been the published accounting for what happened to the remainder, however, an unconfirmed sighting of an open mint bag of 1973 (P) Eisenhower dollars at a Florida coin shop was reported several years ago by Ike Group member Brian Vaile several years ago. If true, that would mean at least some portion of that mintage was released into circulation. Given that the issue is rarely encountered in circulated grades, CoinWeek assumes that any such emission would have been in very small numbers and quite probably, accidental.
1973 Eisenhower dollars differ from 1971 and and most 1972 circulation strike dollars in that they were struck from dies using hardened 52100 die steel, as opposed to the W-1 die steel used at the beginning of the coin’s production term. As a result, coins struck with the harder dies were more sharply struck, especially in early and mid die states. The die sinking issue that was also common on the left side of the obverse was also greatly reduced.
The limited production run and method of distribution of 1973 (P) Eisenhower dollars has yielded few significant die varieties or mint errors. Collectors of so-called “Peg Leg” varieties may want to keep an eye on “OK” Peg Legs for the date. OK stands for “Off at the Knees”. The R on LIBERTY on this Peg Leg is so polished that half of the base of the R is absent.
The certified populations of the 1973 (P) Eisenhower dollar in all types reveal real collector demand for the coin in MS65 or above. At the time of writing, CAC has certified just 18 examples in MS65 and a mere nine in MS66.
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 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”.
Designer(s): 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:||1973|
|OBV Designer||Frank Gasparro|
|REV Designer||Frank Gasparro|
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PCGS-Graded 1973 Eisenhower Dollar Coins Currently Available on eBay