Q. David Bowers
The next occasion for issuing commemorative silver dollars (and other coins) was provided by the 200th anniversary of the United States Constitution, observed in 1987. Through the efforts of Rep. Frank Annunzio, a bill known as the Act of October 29, 1986 (Public Law 99-582) was passed, which authorized the production of up to 10 million silver dollars and one million $5 gold pieces in combinations of Uncirculated and Proof finish. Surcharges of $7 for the dollars and $35 for the $5 pieces were to go toward reduction of the national debt, seemingly a bottomless pit, a vast deficit which was not likely to inspire any sense of patriotism in the heart of the average coin purchaser. Nearly four million coins were sold, yielding $52 million toward the debt. The last of these coins were minted on June 30, 1988, and are technically considered restrikes. However, paying attention to minting dates has never been a priority in the course of producing commemoratives over the years.
This was not the first time coins were proposed to commemorate this historical document. On April 23, 1936 there was introduced a bill to the House of Representatives to authorize coinage of half dollars to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Constitution, but nothing came of the idea.
Secretary of the Treasury James A. Baker III announced that a competition would be held for the designof these coins. Eleven outside sculptors were invited to compete with six on the staff of the Mint Engraving Department. Each artist was requested to submit four sketches in return for a payment of $2,000, whether or not the designs were used.
New Hampshire artist Patricia Lewis Verani's designs were chosen. The obverse motif, as it finally appeared on the coins, displays a quill pen laid across a sheaf of parchments and reads "We the People." The reverse shows a group of men in colonial dress, the foremost one with a roll of papers, reminiscent of paintings of the Founding Fathers. Mrs. Lewis drew on a background of varied sculpture ranging from the monumental to the miniature in the creation of her design.
Production and Sales
The Philadelphia Mint struck Uncirculated 1987-P silver dollars, whereas the San Francisco Mint produced Proof 1987-S $1 pieces. Distribution was through national retail chains, over 1,700 banks, and numerous other locations for a total of 15,000 outlets. Direct marketing efforts were handled by the firm of Kobs & Draft Advertising, Inc. Several package options were offered:
(1) Single Proof 1987-S dollars, advance discount price $24, later raised to $28. 1,778,606 were distributed this way. (2) Single Uncirculated 1987-P dollars offered at $22.50, later raised to $26. Through this option 282,683 were sold.
(3) Prestige Proof sets consisting of a regular Proof set from the Lincoln cent to the Kennedy half dollar, plus one Proof commemorative 1987-S dollar, were offered for $41, later raised to $45. 435,495 sets were sold.
(4) Two-coin Proof sets consisted of a Proof 1987-S dollar and a Proof 1987-W $5, and were first offered at $217, later increased to $250. By this option 443,757 sets were marketed. (5) Two-coin Uncirculated sets comprised an Uncirculated 1987-P dollar and a 1987-W $5. These were first offered at $217, later raised to $240. Sets sold amounted to 79,688.
(6) Four-coin sets included a 1987-P Uncirculated dollar, a 1987-S Proof dollar, and Uncirculated and Proof examples of the 1987-W $5. These were first offered at $465; the price was later raised to $525. 89,258 sets were sold.
Total distribution quantities of 1987 Constitution Bicentennial dollars amounted to 451,629 1987-P Uncirculated coins and 2,747,116 1987-S Proofs.
Collecting Constitution Dollars
Today, specimens of Uncirculated and Proof 1987 Constitution Bicentennial silver dollars are readily available in condition as issued, gem Uncirculated or gem Proof.
Commemorating: 200th anniversary of the U.S.Constitution.
Obverse motif: Parchment leaves and pen.
Reverse motif: Group of American citizens.
Authorization date: October 29, 1986. Dates on coins: 1987 (also 1787).
Dates when coins were actually minted: 1987 and 1988.
Mints used: Philadelphia and San Francisco. Maximum quantity authorized: 10,000,000.
Total quantity minted: Information not released by the Mint.
Quantity melted: Information not released by the Mint.
Net number distributed: 451,629 1987-P Uncirculated coins and 2,747,116 1987-S Proofs.
Issued by: U.S. Mint sales department (Customer Service Center, United States Mint, 10001 Aero-space Road, Lanham, MD 20706) and other addresses.
Standard original packaging: Packaged in a velvet-lined blue box: (or mahogany box as part of a four-coin set).
Official sale prices: Uncirculated 1987-P coins $22.50 in advance, later $26; Proof 1987-S coins $24 in advance, later $28. Also sold as part of other options.
Designer of obverse and reverse: Patricia Lewis Verani.
Interesting fact: Ms. Verani went to the Philadelphia Mint to create models from her designs. Chief Engraver Elizabeth Jones set up a working space for Verani in her office.