The Eisenhower Dollar is a dollar coin issued by the United States government from 1971–1978.
When it comes to U.S. coinage, renowned General and former President Dwight D. Eisenhower managed something that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln could NOT! Yes, Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln all appear on more than one U.S. coin type—for example, Washington appears not only on our quarter, but on a 1982 commemorative half dollar as well. But unlike Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln, only Eisenhower graces the obverse of two different coins of the same denomination!
In 1977 the headline title of an article in a major coin magazine trumpeted, “The Ike is Dead! Long Live the Ike!” In a nutshell, what the article was saying is this: there were strong rumblings that the Eisenhower dollar was about to be phased out. When that happened, the article stated, watch out! Why? Because, according to the article, the until-then neglected Eisenhower dollar series would gain new life. Collectors would now see the Eisenhower dollar as an obsolete U.S. coin type that lasted for less than ten years! Collectors would go after Eisenhower dollars like never before!
Well, that didn’t exactly happen—even though, true to the article’s predictions, the U.S Mint ceased Eisenhower dollar production shortly after that 1977 article. To be exact, the end came in 1978, a scant seven years after it was introduced in 1971. Still, during its short lifetime, the Eisenhower dollar, often referred to as the “Ike Dollar” for short, is an important “first” in U.S. coinage as well as an important “last.”
The Eisenhower dollar, designed by Frank Gasparro, appeared 36 years after the last U.S. silver dollar had been struck-- that being the 1935 Peace dollar. When the Ike dollar appeared on the scene in 1971, there were still plenty of people still living who well-remembered spending silver dollars. Indeed, up until 1971, every dollar coin the U.S. had ever struck was made of silver. So no doubt, many (perhaps even most) U.S. citizens assumed the new Ike dollar was a new “silver dollar.” But it wasn’t. From the beginning, the Eisenhower dollar, at least those released into circulation, were made of copper-nickel. This being a “silver dollar” with no silver is probably the first strike against the Ike dollar as far as collector popularity is concerned. But, at least it does have the distinction of being the FIRST U.S. dollar coin to NOT be made of silver.
Still, in terms of size, the Eisenhower dollar was just as large as the U.S. silver dollar types that came before it. It’s still a huge coin that fills up the palm of your hand. The dollar coins that have come AFTER the Ike dollar are much smaller. This is why the Ike dollar is also an important “last,” in that it’s the last silver-dollar-sized coin ever struck by the U.S. for circulation. Of course, the Ike’s large size didn’t count against it as far as collector popularity, but the size of the Ike dollar DID count against it as far as commercial popularity! As with generations before, the U.S. citizens of the 1970’s simply didn’t want to carry around a bunch—or even a few—huge-sized Eisenhower dollars in their pocket! Like today, the U.S. citizens of the 1970’s much preferred using a dollar bill to using a dollar coin—especially a big, heavy dollar coin!
The design of the Eisenhower dollar is emblematic of its time. In 1971, U.S. coinage was still in its “Dead Hero Worship” phase, as many numismatists like to call it. It is this phase that resulted in coins with obverses featuring Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Benjamin Franklin, Susan B. Antony, and of course, Dwight D. Eisenhower, who passed away in 1969. A popular phrase used in the United States, when Eisenhower was running for President was, “I Like Ike!” And yes, the World War II hero-General and popular U.S. President was indeed loved by many—so it was only natural that his country sought to honor him with his own coin two years after his death. So on one side of the new dollar coin, you had a popular American icon, and on the other, an eagle landing on….. the moon! Remember, in 1971, space exploration was still a big deal, as this was a period when American astronauts were still taking rocket trips up to the moon!
Though Americans still remembered Eisenhower fondly, few thought his portrait made for compelling U.S. coinage art. No doubt the somewhat boring design is yet another strike against the Ike dollar when it comes to collector interest. To this day, many consider the Eisenhower dollar to be one of the stalest of U.S. coin designs. Eisenhower’s shallow, short-haired bust seemed to lend itself not only to quick wear, but also to nicks and scratches in the wide surface area. That’s why today, even many Uncirculated Ike dollars don’t look all that great.
I mentioned before that the Eisenhower dollar was a clad coin. Yes, that’s true for the circulation issues. But there were Ike dollars struck in silver—or at least partly struck in silver. For while the Philadelphia and Denver mints struck circulation-issue Ikes, the San Francisco mint struck special silver Eisenhower dollars for collectors. These San Francisco Ikes contain roughly 40% silver. You may have heard such terms as “brown Ikes” and “blue Ikes.” These refer to the San Francisco mint Eisenhower dollars—the Proof Ike dollars came in a brown package, while the Uncirculated or “Mint” Ikes came in a blue package.
In 1975 and 1976, special Bicentennial Ike dollars were struck, though all are dated 1976. The obverse features the standard Eisenhower bust, but below it are the dual dates of “1776*1976”. The reverse features a fairly attractive design: the Liberty Bell in the foreground with the full moon in back of it. There are actually two varieties of the Bicentennial Ike dollar. Those struck in 1975 have thinner reverse letters than those struck in 1976, thus accounting for the Variety I and II Bicentennial Ike dollars.
Today, any Eisenhower dollar pretty much needs to be in mint-state before its worth any kind of premium. Interestingly enough, the special 40% silver S-mint issues aren’t worth that much more than mint-state clad Ikes. In fact, the most costly Eisenhower dollar as of this writing is the 1976-S 40% silver Ike dollar, valued at $14 in MS-63, and $12.50 in Proof. The 1973 Ikes are a bit more costly than the other dates as well—the 1973-P and 1973-D are both valued at $11 in MS-63, while the 1973-S is valued at $11 in Proof.
After a final year of issue in1978, lawmakers felt it was time to retire the Eisenhower dollar. The public was clearly not interested in using it. As it turned out, coin collectors didn’t have much use for it either, judging by the low values still listed for all pieces in the Ike dollar series. Clearlly, low prices such as these are indicative of the lack of demand for Ike dollars. Only time will tell if demand rises at all.
But that’s not the end of the Eisenhower dollar! Believe it or not, ANOTHER Eisenhower dollar was struck by the U.S. Mint in 1990! No, this isn’t a case like the Susan B. Anthony dollar, where it was last struck in 1981, slept for 18 years, then was resurrected one last time in 1999. No, the Mint struck a NEW Eisenhower dollar in 1990, the Eisenhower Commemorative dollar. But this one was a commemorative silver dollar, not a coin meant for circulation. This silver commemorative featured TWO Eisenhower busts on the obverse: his Presidential bust in the foreground facing right, and his military bust shadowing in the background, facing left! The reverse featured Eisenhower’s Gettysburg, Pennsylvania home.
Eisenhower Silver Dollar Collection Video