Q. David Bowers
Another Eisenhower Coin
The 100th anniversary of the birth of Dwight David Eisenhower furnished the opportunity for the creation of a commemorative coin in 1990 •. Public Law 100-467, signed by President Ronald Reagan on October 3, 1988, provided for the production of up to four million Eisenhower Centennial silver dollars. Hopes were high that the issue would capture the fancy of the American public.
Eisenhower was best known as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during World War II and as the person who planned the D-Day invasion of Normandy, the largest military landing in history. Later he served as president of Columbia University and still later was elected president of the United States for two terms, 1953-1961. During his presidency Eisenhower held the first summit with Soviet leaders since the Yalta conference, was the first chief executive to have a televised news conference, balanced the federal budget (now, from hindsight, a remarkable accomplishment!), and initiated the interstate highway program.
Eisenhower was born on October 14, 1890. On the 1990 centennial date various celebrations were held around the country including his birthplace in Dennison, Texas, his hometown of Abilene, Kansas, his retirement home in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
The Coin Design
By this time, enough complaints had been received about designs, that Donna Pope, director of the Mint, again sought to, obtain a wide selection of design possibilities. Early in the Mint's modem commemorative program, collectors lamented the fact that the best of new motifs lacked the artistry and appeal of certain coins of years before. Such negativism became particularly widespread during the 1983-1984 Olympic Games program (by contrast, the 1982 Washington half dollar-the first issue in the modern series-was well received). Mrs. Pope, who kept her finger on the pulse of the numismatic community and who was well aware of the importance that collectors played in the success of any commemorative program, sought to have pleasing motifs created for the proposed 1990 Eisenhower Centennial dollar.
Five outside artists as well as artists from the Mint Engraving Department staff were invited to submit designs for the coin. In August 1989, Secretary of the Treasury Nicholas F. Brady made final selections. John Mercanti of the United States Mint created the winning obverse design, a bust of President Dwight Eisenhower, an older man, facing right, superimposed on a younger bust as Eisenhower the five-star general, facing left.
The winning reverse by New Jersey artist Marcel Jovine, modeled by Mint sculptor-engraver Chester Y. Martin, showed Eisenhower's retirement home at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
The design competition for the 1990 Eisenhower dollar really wasn't a competition in the usual sense of the word. Nicholas Brady made preliminary selections of designs for the dollar, apparently without consulting with the Commission of Fine Arts until after the fact. Commission member Diane Wolf was critical of the fact that the Mint "continues to bring designs for coins and medals after the design has been selected." She also criticized the fact that the inscription E PLURIBUS UNUM appeared in a dif-ferent lettering style from the rest of the inscriptions. The serifs in the word PLURIBUS were removed to match the S in EISENHOWER.
Numismatic columnist Ed Reiter had this to say about the coin: Congress has authorized a commemorative silver dollar to honor former President Dwight D. Eisenhower on the 100th anniversary of his birth. Under other circumstances I would have no quarrel with such a coin. As a wartime hero and much admired president, Dwight Eisenhower certainly merited coinage recognition. He got that recognition when his portrait was placed on the circulating $1 coin . . . And, why, in heaven's name, must the coin bear the likeness of his farmhouse in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania-a building almost no one will recognize and that has so little to do with the public's recollection of Eisenhower's life?
What we need, it seems to me, is a special advisory panel that would study all proposals for commemorative coins and then make recommendations on which should be approved. This panel should include respected individuals with in-depth knowledge of American history. It also would make sense to have a representative from the Commission of Fine Arts. And coin collectors surely should have a voice.
The mintmark on the Eisenhower Centennial Proof coin was "P" for the Philadelphia Mint, which is located in the same state as the Eisenhower home in Gettysburg. The Uncirculated version of the Eisenhower silver coin bore a "w" mintmark for the West Point Mint, said by the Treasury to have been especially fitting since he attended the United States Military Academy at West Point.
The Mint announced that through February 28, 1990, the coin would be available at special pre-issue prices of $25 for a single 1990-P silver Proof, $23 for a single silver Uncirculated 1990-W, and $42 for the Prestige set, which included a Proof Eisenhower silver coin as well as one each of the regular design silver half dollar, quarter, dime, nickel, and cent. After February 28, coins would be available at participating banks and retailers at the regular prices. Regular prices (effective March 1, 1990)were as follows: 1990-P Proof dollar $29, 1990-W Uncirculated dollar $26, 1990 Prestige Proof set $46.
On March 21, 1990, it was announced that over one million Eisenhower Centennial silver dollars had been sold since January. Less than three months into this program, already one-fourth of the total authorized mintage had been sold, an encouraging sign. However, it developed that the beginning interest was the best interest, and soon sales slumped.