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 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 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.)
Production totals of Eisenhower dollars for the first two years of the series were enormous: a combined 116.38 million circulation strike coins in 1971 and a combined 168.44 million circulation strikes in 1972. While there was a good deal of collector enthusiasm for the Ike dollar, there was no practical need to circulate the large clad dollar coin.
In 1973, the Mint decided to forego striking additional dollar coins for circulation and instead produced two million from each mint for the purposes of inclusion in the annual Mint Set. Without the benefit of this explanation, it is easy to look at the mintages for each issue in the series and consider the 1973-P and 1973-D as “Key Dates”. They are not. Much scarcer in Mint State are the Philadelphia issues of 1971 and 1972, with the 1972 Type 2 reverse being the scarcest of all business strike coins in the series.
1973 (P) Eisenhower Dollar
In Mint State 65, the 1973 (P) carries a retail price of about $25 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. The quality of coins in mint sets varies dramatically and choice uncirculated examples (MS63) are not uncommon. In MS66, the 1973 (P) sells in two strata. For non-CAC certified examples, MS66 coins realize between $200-$250 at auction. A high-quality specimen in MS66 with CAC-approval can bring prices in excess of $450.
Up until very recently, MS66 was the top pop grade for Eisenhower dollars. Since 2016, a handful of examples have been certified at MS66+. The record price paid for one at public auction was $7,637.50 from the Sonoran Monsoon Collection, which was built by former Navajo President Joe Shirley, Jr. Shirley built an impressive collection of U.S. dollar coins, but the quality of his top pop Ike dollars was surpassed by coins assembled by at least three rival collectors: Wang, Weaver, and Oskam.
The finest example that exists, according to our census, is the Sego-Weaver specimen, a CAC-approved MS66+ coin with plus eye appeal and fantastic toning. That coin sold as part of a collection in 2017 in a Private Treaty sale.
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”.
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|
|Mint Mark:||None (Philadelphia)|
|OBV Designer||Frank Gasparro|
|REV Designer||Frank Gasparro | Michael Collins|