The Eisenhower Dollar: The last of the Over-sized Dollar Coins

The Eisenhower dollar.

The Eisenhower dollar, minted from 1971 until 1978, was the last of the over-sized dollars minted in the United States. Unlike its predecessor, the Peace dollar, the Eisenhower dollars made for circulation have no silver in them, but are comprised of the same metals that make up the quarters and half dollars from the same era. That is they have a 100% copper core, with a mix of copper and nickel on the surface of the coin. There were, however, special coins struck at the San Francisco mint for collectors, made of 40% silver and 60% copper.

Eisenhower dollars were made in Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco. In 1972, in Philadelphia, the use of dies with greater or lesser relief produced several (3) varieties. In 1976, There were two varieties minted at all three of the mints. Because of this, though the coin was only made for eight years, there are 31 different types for the collector to find. The rarest of these is the 1972 type II variety. These copper–nickel coins were struck with a die used for the production of the collector (40% silver) coins. About 100,000 entered general circulation. If you can find one now (2011), in pristine condition, it is worth about $65. This is the rarest coin from this series, and is about twice as valuable as the next rarest one (a 1973 S collector's grade coin).

Obverse of the coin.

The front of the coin shows a profile of Eisenhower's head looking to the left. The word LIBERTY follows the curve of the coin at the top. The date is at the bottom. Above the date is the mint mark. This straightforward design is the work of chief engraver Frank Gasparro. He also designed the back of the coin, except in 1976, when all quarters, half dollars, dollars had a special Bicentennial design (by Dennis Williams).

The Apollo 11 insignia used as a basis for the design of the reverse of the Eisenhower dollar.
The Apollo 11 insignia used as a basis for the design of the reverse of the Eisenhower dollar.

Reverse of the coin.

The back of the coin depicts an eagle landing on the moon. The earth is visible as a small circle on the design, and it is here that one can most clearly identify the 1972 varieties. There are 13 stars on the back of the coin representing the original 13 colonies. Above the eagle along the rim of the coin are the words UNITED STATES OF AMERICA; and it is here that the varieties from 1976 are discerned. Directly above the eagle are the words E. PLURIBUS UNUM. The words ONE DOLLAR are at the rim of the coin at the bottom. The design of this coin is based on the insignia from the Apollo11 space mission to the moon. The government initiated the space exploration program during Eisenhower's presidency (1953 - 1961). Eisenhower died on March 28, 1969 about four months before the successful landing on the moon.

A Striking Design!
A Striking Design!

Commemorative Bicentennial coinage (1976).

The obverse and the lettering on the reverse, are unchanged in 1976. The exception is that where the usual date would appear, 1976, instead appears the date 1776–1976; and that the words E. PLURIBUS UNUM are smaller and repositioned (though still on the reverse). To commemorate 200 years since the signing of the declaration of independence, the government commissioned a new reverse. It features a depiction of the Liberty Bell superimposed in front of the moon. Instead of 13 stars, the back only has two now.

The Eisenhower dollar–a good place to start collecting.

These coins have far less snob appeal than any of the preceding one dollar coins. Therefore, it may be possible to find good deals on them from time to time. You will also get used to using a magnifying glass sorting through the different varieties. The design is nice, simple and modern. Clean and bold; it commemorates both a person and an era. Since they are still legal tender, and not inflated due to silver content, you can request them at the bank. $10 will buy you 10 of these coins there, and if you are lucky, that is, exceptionally lucky, you might find a 1972 type II in near uncirculated condition. It is the only circulating coin from this series to be considered of value to collectors. To get the 40% silver coins, you have to buy them from dealers who will charge you in accordance with the going rate of silver. All in all, the Eisenhower dollar a handsome coin still available in pocket change.

The Moon Landing

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Further reading.

I've published articles about all the "true" silver dollars here on hubpages.

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