It may hard for some to imagine now, but there once was a time when a typical 1973-S 40% Silver Proof Eisenhower Dollar was a $150 coin. That was the case in the early 1980s, when silver prices soared to heights of $50 per ounce and the 1973-S Ike Dollar was still a contemporary coin enjoying price buoyancy, as many modern collectible coins tend to do early in their secondary marketplace trading. Today, PCGS CoinFacts reveals a typical PCGS PR67DCAM 40% Silver 1973-S Eisenhower Dollar trades for around $25 – a far cry from its early ‘80s pricing. But many longtime collectors who remember the 1973-S Proof Ike as an expensive coin still want an answer to the question, “why was it so expensive?”
One must revisit 1973 to understand why the 1973 40% Silver Proof Eisenhower Dollar trended into the exosphere during its first decade of existence. When the Eisenhower Dollar was initially released in 1971, the United States Mint produced just two numismatic offerings: the 40% Silver Uncirculated Eisenhower Dollar and 40% Silver Proof Eisenhower Dollar. These were dubbed “Blue Pack” and “Brown Pack” Ikes in numismatic parlance, respectively. As the 1971 and 1972 Eisenhower Dollars were not issued in ordinary Proof Sets and Uncirculated Sets, collectors who wanted specimens for their collections needed to buy the individual 40% Silver Eisenhower Dollars.
However, many collectors scoffed at paying for the 40% Silver Eisenhower Dollars, which were issued by the United States Mint at $3 for uncirculated versions and $10 for the proofs. That was a tough sell when an entire 10-coin Uncirculated Set could be bought from the U.S. Mint for $3.50 and a five-coin Proof Set cost $5. Still there were plenty of collectors who ponied up the money to buy the numismatic Eisenhower Dollars, which tended to fall in value on the marketplace soon after they were issued.
That dynamic changed in 1973, the first year Eisenhower Dollars were included in regular Uncirculated Sets and Proof Sets. While many collectors still paid the extra $3 to buy a 1973-S 40% Silver Uncirculated Eisenhower Dollar, fewer rationalized paying an additional $10 for the 1973-S Proof 40% Silver Eisenhower Dollar when they could get a similar copper-nickel clad proof in the 1973 Proof Set, which now included six coins (with the 1973-S Ike Dollar) for $7.
While the 1971-S Proof saw a total mintage of 4,265,237 and the 1972-S Proof saw distribution of 1,811,631 specimens, the 1973-S dipped to barely over 1 million units – 1,013,646, to be exact. Once final mintage figures were released on the 1973-S 40% Silver Eisenhower Dollar, the numismatic marketplace took notice and values for the coin immediately began rising. When all was said and done for the Eisenhower Dollar, last issued in 1978, the 1973-S 40% Silver Eisenhower Dollar took the undisputed claim as the absolute series key.
All 40% Silver Eisenhower Dollars rode a wave to new marketplace heights as the price of silver crested to record prices in the late 1970s and early 1980s, stimulating crossover numismatic speculation involving the 1973-S 40% Proof Eisenhower Dollar and helping that issue stay above the $100 price threshold throughout the early 1980s. But, as so many modern United States coins experience, the price of the 1973-S 40% Silver Proof Ike dipped as collector attention moved elsewhere. And, as the 1980s rolled on, there were plenty of numismatic “distractions” to come along, including the relaunch of the commemorative coin program in 1982, release of the first Prestige Proof Sets in 1983, and the first American Eagle bullion coins in 1986.
Today, the 1973-S 40% Silver Proof Eisenhower Dollar remains generally the most expensive of the regular-issue Ikes, though its price is much more in line with its more common counterparts. And, like other Ike Dollars, the 1973-S Proof is extraordinarily scarce in PR70DCAM, where prices for this issue hover around $1,350. PCGS has graded fewer than 150 at this level, putting extreme pressure on what remains the coveted key date in an increasingly popular series.