Description:

Besides removing silver from the quarter and the dime, the Coinage Act of 1965 also mandated that no new silver dollars could be coined until 1970, at which time the need for the denomination would be reevaluated.

That “need”, apparently, came from an unexpected source: Nevada gambling casinos. Though small numbers of silver dollars were kept as “rainy day” money by non-collectors who had lived through the Great Depression and the Second World War, large dollar-size tokens largely replaced dollar coins at casinos after 1965. Yet casino patrons preferred the real deal.

The March 1969 death of Dwight D. Eisenhower, the former Supreme Commander of Allied forces invading France and two-term United States president–as well as the eight-day historic lunar mission and landing by the Apollo 11 crew in July 1969–prompted an October 29, 1969, bill in the House of Representatives that proposed a dollar coin commemorating both events. While U.S. 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 (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.)

As the 1977 Eisenhower dollar went into production, planning was well underway to find a replacement coin. Dollar coin proponents saw the coin’s large size, a holdover from when the United States struck silver dollars, as a major impediment for the coin’s circulation. This misconception would be laid bare for all two see in just two years’ time.

Despite the Eisenhower dollar’s unsuitability for circulation, the United States Mint at Philadelphia struck 12,596,000 coins in 1977. 2,006,869 of this total were packaged in the Annual Mint Set. In Uncirculated condition, the 1977 Eisenhower dollar has a retail value of about $3.00 – $4.00.

Certified examples in high grade can carry a significant premium. Considering that the typical Mint Set Uncirculated example has grade-limiting dings and scratches, finding an example of sufficient quality to justify certification is unlikely without examining dozens, if not hundreds, of Mint Sets. The typical grade of a Mint Set coin is MS63.

Terminal Grade for certified coins is MS65, with the typical MS65 example selling at or below the cost of certification. In MS66, the 1977 retails for between $55 and $70 depending on quality. The top certified grade for this issue is MS67. MS67 coins come in a wide range of quality, and this date is plagued with coins that were bulk graded at this level several years ago. These examples tend to be of poor quality for the date and will not CAC. A CAC-quality 1977 can sell for more than $2,000 with superlative toning and clean surfaces.

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Obverse:

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 and below Eisenhower’s neck. On Eisenhower dollars, mintmarks were hand-punched and may vary in exact location and orientation.

Reverse:

1977 Eisenhower Dollar ReverseThe 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).

Coin Specifications:

Country:  United States
Year Of Issue:  1977
Denomination:  One Dollar
Mint Mark:  None (Philadelphia)
Mintage:  12,596,000
Alloy:  Copper-Nickel (Cu-Ni)
Weight:  22.68 g
Diameter:  38.1 mm
Edge:  Reeded
OBV Designer  Frank Gasparro
REV Designer  Frank Gasparro | Michael Collins
Quality:  Uncirculated

 

1 COMMENT

  1. The issues of size and weight weren’t misconceptions. Even during the silver dollar’s heyday in the 19th century, people objected to carrying the coins and derisively referred to them as “cartwheels”.

    The failure of the successor Anthony dollar can be traced not specifically to its size, but to the fact that the Mint and the consulting company that they hired failed to learn from the experiences of both the US and other countries that introduced a new coin.

    The most obvious failure was to ignore the fact that similar-size denominations circulate successfully ONLY if they’re otherwise distinctive in design, shape, and/or composition. The designers ignored the failure of the 20¢ coin which differed from the quarter only in having a smooth edge. They similarly ignored 130 years of experience with cents and dimes which differ in size by only 1.1 mm but aren’t confused because they’re different colors. The Mint ignored advice from experts who recommended that the SBA coins be given a brass plating and/or be struck on multi-sided planchets, opting instead to use the same Cu-Ni clad composition and round, reeded-edge planchets as dimes, quarters, and halves.

    Tellingly, when Canada introduced its $1 coin a decade later the RCM explicitly referenced the SBA’s failures by choosing a brass-colored, dodecagonal planchet. While US merchants and consumers regularly confused SBA dollars with quarters, Canadian citizens had – and continue to have – no such difficulty distinguishing their similar-size coins.

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