New dollar coin: For the first time since 1935, American collectors were to have a newly-minted circulating "silver" dollar coin. Designed by Frank Gasparro, the Eisenhower dollar was sponsored and supported in Congress by Bob Casey of Texas. On October 29, 1969, Casey introduced a bill calling for a coin honoring both Eisenhower and the moon landing in July of that year, one of our country's greatest technological achievements. This was an appropriate move, as Ike had signed into law the act that created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958.
The new dollar coins were to be minted in copper-nickel as well as 40% silver formats,a plan that delighted collectors. Two years after Casey's action, the first Ikes were made available to banks and the collecting public. One unexpected yet welcome use of the Eisenhower dollars came from the Nevada casinos at Las Vegas, Reno, and Lake Tahoe, where hungry slot machines were to gobble millions of Ike dollars during the next several years. It had been five years or so since the slots and gaming tables used dollar coins; in the intervening years, the casinos made do with tokens. However, use of Ikes in the casinos was short-lived, and did not continue past the early 1970s. (Per conversation of Frank Van Valen with Eisenhower dollar specialist Dave McHenry, January 1993.)
Trial strikings: Trial strikings of 1971 Eisenhower dollars were made beginning on January 25, 1971 in Philadelphia; apparently these were destroyed.(The Krause Publications Coin Calendar, 1993, notes: "Two prototype Ikes struck in Philadelphia, then destroyed.") Soon, all was ready with the new coinage. First strike ceremonies were held at the opposite end of the country, in San Francisco on March 31, 1971.
Ordering Ikes. By early 1971, the collecting world was aware of the Eisenhower dollar, and collectors everywhere eagerly awaited further news about methods of production, metallic content, and distribution methods for the coins. On June 18, order blanks for the new Eisenhower dollar coins would be made available, according to an announcement by the U.S. Mint. The order period opened on July 1, and orders were limited to five Proof and five Uncirculated coins per person. The initial cost of the 40% silver coin in the Proof format was $10, and the Uncirculated coins were offered at $3 each.
1971 Mint sets, sold by the Treasury for $3.50 per set, did not contain Eisenhower dollars.
No Ikes in government hands now: Joe Coyne, assistant to the Board at the Office of Board Mem-bers, Federal Reserve Board Public Affairs Office, stated in January 1993 that the Federal Reserve has no stockpiles of Eisenhower dollars at any of the 12 Federal Reserve Banks. All Ikes have been dispersed to smaller banks throughout the system.(Conversation of Frank Van Valen with Joe Coyne, January 7, 1993.) Today in the early 1990s, scattered quantities of copper-nickel clad Ikes are believed to remain in private bank vaults, as unwelcome as the Susan B. Anthony dollars. However, most of these probably show evidence of circulation.
Availability: Eisenhower dollar specialist Dave McHenry noted this:(Letter to Frank Van Valen, January 26,1993; this is also the source of many other McHenry comments quoted in this section, unless otherwise noted.)A very underrated coin in Uncirculated condition. OrigiÂ· nal rolls and bags are very scarce. Coins usually are of average striking quality. As with all Eisenhower dollars made for circulation, the typical coin has many bagmarks. MS-64 and MS-65 pieces are very difficult to locate.
Jim Reardon of Littleton Coin Company stated that this is the scarcest of all Eisenhower dollars.(Letter to the author, January 4, 1993.)
Gems scarce: Finding an attractive gem specimen of 1971 will be an inexpensive yet very challenging endeavor for the interested numismatist. As of January 1993, PCGS had certified just 10 specimens of this date at the MS-65 level, with none graded higher. This low number almost certainly reflects the reluctance of collectors to have this commondate coin certified, as well as the rarity of the coin itself. The main "problem" is that it is not high priced!
Mint errors: For reasons not recorded by Abe Kosoff, whose idea it was to include them in Dr. J. Hewitt Judd's United States Pattern, Experimental, and Trial Pieces featured a section on major mint error Eisenhower dollars. As interestingas they might be, such coins are neither patterns, nor trial pieces, nor were they experimental. The strange items there described and pictured will interest almost any col-lector of Ikes, and certainly any collector of Mint errors.
1. 1971 copper-nickel clad Type I. Breen-5743.
Low relief. Issue began November 11, 1971. About 478 obverse dies, 239 reverses were made, and most were probably used.(Die production figures are based on 1971 Mint Bureau figures quoted in Walter Breen's Complete Encyclopedia of u.s.and Colonial Coins, page 706. Proof dies: Obverses lasted on the average 2,500 impressions each, reverses 3500. Business strike dies: Obverses, 100,000, reverses 200,000.)