Even though the United States had no real need for a large dollar coin at the start of the 1970s, the gaming industry developed an acute need to find a replacement for the silver dollars used to feed tens of thousands of slot machines. This “need”, and the recent death of beloved war-hero-turned-president Dwight D. Eisenhower, presented the United States Congress with an opportunity to cater to the needs of the industry. While 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 of the coin.
(Incidentally, the amendments also authorized the General Services Administration (GSA) to sell 2.8 million Carson City Morgan dollars from the vaults of the United States Treasury.)
First-year production totals were large (47,799,000 for Philadelphia business strikes and 68,587,424 for Denver), but these paled when compared to the mintage of the 1971 Kennedy half dollar, which was struck in Cu-Ni clad for the first time this same year. While hundreds of millions of Eisenhower dollars were struck, with many millions entering circulation, the coin was more of a novelty than it was useful for the purposes of commerce.
1971-D Eisenhower Dollar
The Denver Mint began production of the Eisenhower dollar a few weeks before Philadelphia. Creating a Cu-Ni Eisenhower dollar–a large, silver-dollar format coin–proved to be quite a technical challenge. Despite the fact that the Denver Mint’s presses were older than the presses at the newly finished Philadelphia facility, the Denver Mint typically produced better dollar coins.
Coins struck at Denver typically have a sharper, cleaner look. Many are fully lustrous, and some were struck on highly polished planchets. By contrast, most Philadelphia issues appear dull, lacking in luster, and have residual annealing chatter marks on the high points of the relief (typically on Eisenhower’s chin and hair).
Despite this overall cleaner look, the 1971-D Eisenhower dollar does have a tendency to show significant amounts of die sink along the bottom periphery. On the coin illustrated above, you can see evidence of this along the bottom of the design through the date and flattening the first few letters of the motto: IN GOD WE TRUST.
As the business strike Eisenhower dollar was not issued in U.S. Mint annual sets until 1973, examples that survive in Mint State were saved from circulation. For some reason, more 1971-D Eisenhower dollars turn up in Mint State in quantity than examples of the 1971 (P).
If pulled from circulation, the 1971-D Eisenhower dollar has little to no value over its stated $1 face value. Collectors will pay a premium of $5 to $10 for an uncirculated example without any particular guaranty of quality. Premiums do increase from these levels when dealing with certified coins.
In Mint State 65, the 1971-D carries a price of about $25 according to CoinWeek IQ’s current market analytics. It is a first-year-of-issue and type coin that carries a significant numismatic premium in ultra-high grades (or if it is a gem-quality “Friendly Eagle Variety” – more on that in a moment).
In Mint State 67, auction records indicate that the value of this issue at this level has fallen dramatically from where it was four or five years ago when a typical example might bring $1,500. A brilliant and fully lustrous example brought $630 in an April 2020 Heritage auction. The three finest examples that we’ve ever seen are the two MS67s from the Richland Ikes Collection, assembled by Ike Group founder Andy Oskam, and another MS67 that was part of Troy Weaver’s amazing registry set. Weaver’s example was a Peg Leg (die polished R) variety with a Talon clash mark on Ike’s forehead.
But perhaps the best of all was the modestly-toned NGC MS68 that brought an eye-popping $8,225 at a March 2020 Legend Rare Coin Auction. This has to be the highest price ever paid for a 1971-D clad Ike dollar and to date, PCGS has certified no coins at this level.
The 1971-D (RDV-006) “Friendly Eagle Variety”
Discovered in 1999 by variety specialist Dr. James Wiles and popularized in the subsequent decade by the Ike Group, the 1971-D “Friendly Eagle Variety” is a naked-eye-visible variety that is not as easy to cherrypick as it once was (you can blame CoinWeek Editor Charles Morgan for lobbying for the coin to get into the Cherrypicker’s Guide’s 5th edition and the Red Book).
The Friendly Eagle features a rounded Earth (the regular issue is not as perfectly round at the upper left area of the globe). On that rounded Earth, you will see a rounded and distinctly carved out Gulf of Mexico and a distinct chain of islands in the Caribean. The eagle’s brow is softer (one might say “friendlier”) than the standard issue. There is no heavy separation apparent in the relief between the top two of the eagle’s tailfeathers on this variety. Also, the lines leading up to the impact ejecta “lines” of the crater are longer, more distinct, and bracket the second L in DOLLAR. In Very Early Die State, some FEVs show a contrail-shaped die scratch bordering the upper left portion of the globe. This feature was discovered by Ike Group member Brian Vaile.
As for scarcity, the Friendly Eagle is not rare but probably represents no more than one million to 1.5 million of the issue’s 68,587,424 struck. Ike dollar specialists consider this a major variety and a semi-key to the series, the key being the 1972 “Type 2” variety.
In MS65, the FEV sells for $100-$125. To date, PCGS reports 49 examples in MS66 with 2 in MS66+. No MS66+ has sold at public auction. MS66 examples have sold for $500 or more. To our knowledge, no finer coins have been certified by NGC. Both services charge a fee to attribute this variety.
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 1971-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:||1971|
|Mint Mark:||D (Denver)|
|OBV Designer||Frank Gasparro|
|REV Designer||Frank Gasparro | Michael Collins|