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 million 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," refleeted 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.
Commemorating: The 1990 centennial of Dwight D. Eisenhower's birth.
Obverse motif: Two portraits of Eisenhower.
Reverse motif: Eisenhower's retirement home. Authorization date: October 3, 1988.
Date on coins: 1990.
Date when coins were actually minted: 1990. Mints used: Philadelphia and West Point. Maximum quantity authorized: 4,000,000.
Total quantity minted: Information not released by Mint.
Quantity melted: Information not released by Mint.
Net number distributed: Uncirculated Philadelphia Mint coins: 241,669; Proof San Francisco Mint coins: 1,144,46l.
Issued by: U.S. Mint (Customer Service Center,
United States Mint, 10001 Aerospace Road, Lanham, MD 20706).
Standard original packaging: Various options.
Official sale prices: 1990-P Proof coins, $25 in advance, $29 later; 1990-W Uncirculated coins, $23 in advance, $25 later. Also available as part of the Prestige Proof set.
Designer of obverse: John Mercanti.
Designer of reverse: Marcel Jovine (modeled by Chester Y. Martin).
Interesting facts: This coin is the only commemorative to feature two portraits of the same person on the same side; the building on the reverse is identified as the EISENHOWER HOME, but it is not stated that it is his retirement home, not his birthplace (his birth is what was being commemorated).