By Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez for PCGS ……
The 1973 Eisenhower Dollar is one of a handful of coins made by the United States Mint during the 1970s and ‘80s not produced for circulation, leaving many numismatists to wonder why. However, a brief review of the Eisenhower Dollar series as a whole and its inability to garner success as a circulating coin provides plenty of insight as to why this coin wasn’t issued for commerce in 1973.
The Eisenhower Dollar was released in 1971 and became the first circulating dollar coin officially issued by the United States since 1935. Some of the impetus in getting the Eisenhower Dollar rolling was to honor Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander in Europe of Allied Forces during World War II who went on to serve as the nation’s president from 1953 through 1961. Eisenhower died in 1969 at the age of 78, and many in Congress felt it would be a fitting honor to place his likeness on a coin, just as the nation did for President John F. Kennedy in the months after his assassination in November 1963.
The Eisenhower Dollar entered circulation in 1971 with strong enthusiasm from the numismatic community, but the general public was less than enthralled by the new coins. Most American people kept using their folding $1 bills, and while 116,386,424 were cumulatively struck for circulation at the Philadelphia and Denver Mints in 1971 and 168,438,511 more in 1972, most of these coins ended up finding life in the Nevada casino circuit, where they were widely used as slot machine prizes and served a role as veritable poker chips.
The powers that be at the Mint and in the Treasury Department did not see the need to produce another 100+ million in 1973 for circulation when it was already bearing out that the coins were gaining little traction as circulating coinage. Therefore, Mint officials restricted the production of 1973 Eisenhower Dollars to numismatic sets only, with the business-strike specimens from the Philadelphia and Denver Mints devoted solely to 1973 United States Mint Uncirculated Sets.
All told, the U.S. Mint produced 2,000,056 strikes in Philly and 2,000,000 at the Denver facility. However, only 1,769,258 of each were distributed in Mint Sets, leaving the balances to endure their fates at the smelter.
While the 1973 Eisenhower Dollar circulation strike may appear to be the key date from the mintage standpoint (and on that basis, it technically is) neither the 1973 (Philadelphia) nor the 1973-D Ike Dollar is rare. They fetch only $5 to $10 in typical uncirculated grades of MS60 to MS64. All circulation-strike Eisenhower Dollars are significantly scarcer in higher grades, and this is the case with the 1973. In MS65, the Philadelphia specimens fetch closer to $50 while Denver strikes realize about $45. The all-time record price for the 1973 Ike is $7,637.50, hammered for a PCGS MS66+ specimen at a 2016 Heritage Auctions event and the 1973-D notched $12,925 in a grade of PCGS MS67 at a 2013 Heritage Auctions sale.
* * *