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.)
First-year production totals were large (47,799,000 for Philly business strikes and 68,587,424 for Denver) but 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 item than a useful coin for the purposes of commerce.
The 1978 (P) Eisenhower Dollar
By the summer of 1976, work was well underway to rethink the future of American coinage. In its Comprehensive Review of U.S. Coinage, the Research Triangle Institute contemplated the elimination of the cent, the introduction of a two-cent coin, and the introduction a “more conveniently-sized” one dollar coin.
The Eisenhower dollar, a large-format dollar coin based on the size of the old silver dollar standard, had proved impractical for commercial purposes. The same fact pattern held true when the Peace dollar of 1921 was introduced and the Morgan dollar of 1878 before it. The one key difference between the Eisenhower dollar and its predecessors was the fact that the Eisenhower dollar was a base metal coin made of copper-nickel and the Peace and Morgan dollars were struck in 90% silver.
And while the Treasury vaults had been cleaned out its large stockpile of silver coins that it had held up to the early 1960s, the production of large cu-ni dollar coins was a solution in search of a problem.
The “more conveniently sized” one-dollar coin went from think tank idea to the subject of Congressional interest by the end of the decade. In 1978, Congress held numerous hearings regarding a change in the size and design of the dollar coin. In July, the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs of the United States Senate filed its report and proposed a bill to authorize the production of a small dollar coin bearing the likeness of Susan B. Anthony. Anthony beat out a number of other historic figures for the coin’s obverse, including Corps of Discovery member Sacagawea. Sacagawea would replace by the stern-faced suffragette as the face of another dollar coin debacle.
This was the climate under which the last of the Eisenhower dollars of 1978 were made. The United States Mint struck 25.7 million Eisenhower dollars at Philadelphia and 33 million in Denver. The San Francisco Mint produced clad Proof versions of the coin and in 1978 introduced a new process that vastly increased the quality of the coins’ cameo contrast. Because of this, the 1978 Eisenhower dollar Proofs have a distinctively different appearance than all of the other Proofs, both clad and silver-clad, in the series.
In Mint State 65, the 1978 (P) carries a price of about $18 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. Mint set coins tend to have the best strikes, but this is a trend and not a rule. In MS66, the 1978 (P) sells for about $72. It is conditionally rare in the grade of MS67 and recent auction records indicate that at this level, this issue has a value of approximately $5,000. With the appearance of new coins in the condition census, expect this price to soften somewhat. CAC-approved coins, especially those of extraordinary quality for the grade, will bring substantial premiums over these guide values.
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 1978 (P) 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:||1978|
|Mint Mark:||None (Philadelphia)|
|OBV Designer||Frank Gasparro|
|REV Designer||Frank Gasparro | Michael Collins|