Production of the Eisenhower dollar ended officially Friday, just two days short of the ninth anniversary of the Coinage Law which authorized its existence. The large coins were never popular with the public, nor did they meet the needs of the vending industry. They were accepted by the Nevada gaming industry, supplanting tokens the various casinos had to order privately, and by the jewelry industry, which used them for necklaces, money clips, and so forth.
The Eisenhower dollar was a well-designed coin, and did honor a great military leader and popular president, but it was a political plaything from its inception. It was also an ineffectual attempt to convince Americans that "hard money" was preferable to paper currency. The silver industry didn't have much difficulty in seeing that special strikings in .400 fine silver were available (at a premium). And the so-called silver versions were also subject to congressional actions whereby part of the "profits" went to the Sam Rayburn Memorial Library and elsewhere.
The vending merchandising operatiors are undoubtedly the most active proponents of a small dollar coin. G. Richard Schreiber, president of the National Automatic Merchandising Association, said in COINage magazine recently that there are some 6 million vending machines in operation in this country. Some $7 million dollars have already been expended by the 2,500 company members of NAMA to pay for research and development costs of machinery capable of handling the mini-dollar. It is anticipated this expenditure will reach $12 to $15 million. Schreiber foresees the day when paperback books, magazines, phonograph records, and even throw-away raincoats and umbrellas will be sold in vending machines.
Whatever the fate of the mini-dollar, there is already a new interest in the Eisenhower coin. The prices for Ike dollars vary considerably especially at present. The trade will obviously charge what it thinks that market will accept, and will pay on the basis of known mintage and availability.
From the retail viewpoint, the best Ike dollars are the 1973-S part-silver proofs which Coin Prices lists at $64 each. Only 1,005,617 were struck. The next best are the 1974-S part-silver proofs (1,306,579 mintage), quoted at $19 each.
After that are the 1973 and 1973-D clad versions, which ended up with virtually 2 million strikings each, and are listed at $12.00 apiece.
The Bicentennial dollars (clad) in Type 1, struck in San Francisco for proof purposes are valued at $10 each; the 1976-S part-silver proofs are $8.50 apiece, and the 1972-S part-sviler proofs are quoted at $7.85 each. The 1977 and 1978 plan (Philadelphia) and the 1977-D and 1978-D strikings have the lowest valuations.
The Bureau of the Mint obviously hoped the pbulic would go for the Bicentennial dollar and strruck 117,337,000 at the Philadelphia Mint, and 103,228,274 at Denver. These were all-time highs for the Eisenhower dollar, and all exist in low and high relief obverses. There were also the San Francisco versions in clad form, in part-silver proofs and uncirculated types.
Frank Gasparro, chief engraver at the Philadelphia Mint, at least has a degree of satisfaction. His Eisenhowever profile will give way to what many consider an unattractive bust of Susan B. Anthony, but his Apollo 11 moon landing design for the reverse of the Ike dollar will continue to appear on the mini-dollar. Congress earlier rejected Liberty as a subject for the obverse, to the displeasure of many numismatists.