October 14, 2008
Note: There is only one known 1976 No S Eisenhower Dollar in proof format. Circulation strike 1976 Eisenhower Dollars without the S Mint mark are very common, since the U.S. Mint produced 113,318,000 of them. The odds are very high that any 1976 Eisenhower Dollar without an S mint mark is a circulation strike coin and not a proof. Proof coins are those that are sold to collectors and usually do not go into circulation.
The 1976 (Type 2) Proof Bicentennial Eisenhower Dollar coin without an "S" mint mark is probably the rarest non-error modern coin in existence. Incomprehensively, all other known 1976 Bicentennial Proof Eisenhower dollars bear an "S" mint mark as they were all produced at the San Francisco Mint.
On October 18, 1973 the U.S. Mint held a design contest offering a $5,000 reward for each design chosen for the new 1976 Bicentennial quarter, half dollar and one dollar coins. On March 6, 1974 the winners were announced and Dennis R. Williams' Liberty Bell and moon Bicentennial design was chosen for the Eisenhower dollar reverse.
On August 12, 1974 the three winning designers of the Bicentennial coins were allowed to strike trial proof coins at the Philadelphia Mint, well before the Bicentennial coins went out to the public. Since these trial pieces were struck at the Philadelphia Mint, they did not contain the "S" mint mark! These trial strikes without "S" mint marks were then sent to Bal Harbour, Florida to be displayed at the ANA Convention. Mary Brooks, Mint Director at the time, indicated that the coins displayed without the "S" mint marks were destroyed and replaced with coins bearing the "S" mint mark once they arrived at the U.S. Mint.
Additionally, two separate early sets were presented to President Gerald Ford, but these sets each had an "S" mint mark. Another set was also struck as a "specimen set" and presented to the White House on November 13, 1974 by Mary Brooks. The three designers of the bicentennial coins were then presented with proof examples in special display holders, and these coins also bore the "S" mint mark.
This is only half of the story as the original reverse design was then changed sometime in the middle of 1975. Williams confirmed that he received a call from Philadelphia Mint Chief Engraver Frank Gasparro asking if it would be OK to change the reverse design lettering to improve the striking quality and to facilitate minting procedures at the Mint. Thereafter, the U.S. Mint began producing Type 2 Eisenhower Dollars (Type 2 coins display thinner lettering on the reverse of the coin).
There is no mention as to whether Proof Bicentennial Dollars with a Type 2 reverse design were ever produced at the Philadelphia Mint. The only confirmations indicate Type 1 proofs were made without mint marks for presentation and promotional purposes, but there is no mention as to why the Type 2 No S Ike were produced. However, since Frank Gasparro was consulting Williams on the modifications for the new Bicentennial Type 2 Dollar redesign, it is very possible Gasparro struck a trial piece or trial pieces at Philadelphia to determine if the new Type 2 design would work.
Today, we do know there is only one 1976 Bicentennial Type 2 Proof Dollar known to exist. This colossal coin was found in 1977 in a Woodward and Lathrup Department store in the Washington District area. Incidentally, since Mary Brooks was involved in producing several promotional sets and presentation sets, she could have easily ordered a set of the Type 2 example and presented it to someone in Washington. Perhaps this coin was presented to a member of Congress or someone in Washington as a presentation piece and the recipient then spent it, having no idea that this coin was different from all others that were going to be produced.
The unique 1976 No "S" Proof Type 2 Eisenhower Dollar now resides in a PCGS holder graded as PCGS PR66CAM. The coin is currently owned by Mitchell Spivack, Modern Coin Expert (wondercoins.com).
Mr. Spivack states "the unique 1976 No S Ike Dollar is the most special coin in my coin collection and, I believe, the rarest and most special "modern" U.S. coin in existence. In fact, I believe it is one of only two or possibly three coins from all of the 20th century that are unique, non-error strikings of the U.S. Mint. The historical significance of this coin, honoring the 200th anniversary of the founding of our great country, is overwhelming. My son Justin (age 16) is a dedicated young coin collector who has collected coins since around the age of 5. He has asked that this coin be passed down to him as the single coin in my entire coin collection he can proudly own as an adult and I will certainly try to make that a reality."
It is evident that the Type 1 No S Ikes were produced for presentation pieces and according to Brooks, they were destroyed. For the Type 2 Bicentennial Proof Eisenhower Dollar there is no mention of why it was produced, but what we do know is that this miraculous coin does exist. Today, we have the honor of having such an exceptional and unique example as a testament to represent the 200th Anniversary of this country and American numismatics.