Q. David Bowers
When the Eisenhower Centennial coin program ended and the results were tallied, the Mint reported a loss of $1.2 million, according to information given to the House Banking Subcommittee on Consumer Affairs and Coinage, in response to questioning.' Coin World, in a study of the Eisenhower and other modern commemoratives, noted that the Eisenhower Centennial silver dollar was thus illegal, as the congressional act approving the coin specifically required that the minting and issuance of coins be done "at no net cost" to the federal government. The same House subcommittee learned that a loss of $100,000 was sustained on the United Services Organization 50th Anniversary coin.
The Eisenhower Centennial coin generated a total of $40 million in gross revenues, with a total of $17.5 million spent in the purchase of coin metal and fabrication, actual coin manufacturing and packaging. A total of $13.9 million was spent on product delivery, sales and general administrative expenses, with advertising accounting for $3.3 mil-lion of the total. Of the $9.7 million in surcharges generated from the Eisenhower silver dollars, $8.6 million was transferred to the general fund of the Treasury, resulting in a net loss of $1.2 million as noted. Of course, it can be argued that as $8.6 million was given to the general fund of the Treasury, and the Mint fund (the Mint being a division of the Treasury) was debited with a loss of $1.2 million, the entire situation was simply a' financial shell game who has the profit now? and that, in actuality, a profit was shown. The ways, of government accounting are indeed mysterious.
An article in Coin World, "Hobby Sees Surcharges as Pork Barrel," August 10, 1992, listed three reasons why the Eisenhower Centennial coin program ran in the red: (1) Coin prices and anticipated profits were based on selling approximately three million coins, and 'less than 1.4 million were actually sold. (2) There were quality control problems, resulting in a large rejection rate at the mints during the striking of the coins, (3) A lot of packaging materials were left over at the conclusion of the program.'
Collectors and the Market
Collector response to the Eisenhower Centennial dollars was lukewarm. They were passively collected, with neither widespread enthusiasm nor contempt expressed concerning them, although the inevitable letters appeared in Coin World, Numismatic News, and other periodicals complaining about current commemoratives in general, of which the Eisenhower dollars, were apart.
An article, in Coin World, August 10, 1992; "Commem Coin. Revival Launches Decade," re-fleeted the market at the time, and noted that Uncirculated 1990-P dollars were selling for $26-equal to the issue price-and Proof 1990-W dollars were fetching $28; or $1 below the issue price. Both-figures were above the pre-issue prices of $23 and $25 respectively. Financially, buyers had little cause for complaint.