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The History Of The Eisenhower Dollar
In 1964, the Treasury Department ordered the end to paying out silver dollars. With a coin shortage looming, and silver prices exceeding the face value of a silver dollar, Congress voted to coin 45 million additional silver dollars, which wound up being Peace Silver Dollars.
1935 was the last time the Peace Dollar had been minted. After a production run of over 300,000 coins, the production was halted. None of these Peace Dollars were released into circulation and were eventually melted. It looked like the end of the line for large dollar coins. The Coinage Act of July 23, 1965 included a provision that no standard silver dollars were to be coined for a period of five years.
Near the end of this five year ban, legislation was introduced into the House of Representatives on October 29,1969 calling for a circulating commemorative dollar to honor Dwight Eisenhower and the Apollo XI space flight. Eisenhower had died six months earlier and America had a significant fondness for the former WWII hero and two-term president.
Additionally there was pressure from the Nevada gambling casinos for dollar-sized coins. This stemmed from the nostalgia for the days when the action at the tables was with American silver dollars. However, with the silver content of a silver dollar now well beyond the face value of a silver dollar, silver dollars had disappeared from circulation. Casinos had to pay premiums to buy Morgan and Peace dollars, which the public would keep and squirrel away, or order dollar-size tokens from the General Numismatics Corporation, which later became the Franklin Mint.
It took over a year and a lot of political maneuvering, but the prospective bill finally became law on December 31, 1970. The bill called for a circulating coin made from the same metal content (copper and nickel) used in the clad dimes and quarters. The bill also authorized the coining of up to 150 million silver-clad coins for collectors that would be similar to the half-dollar produced from 1965-1969 which was two layers.
The outer layers would be 80% silver and 20% copper while the inner layer, or core, would be approximately 21% silver and 79% copper. Basically it was a 40% silver mix. An amendment to the bill called for a portion of the profits from these collector coins to be donated to Eisenhower College in Seneca Falls, New York.
With the political issues resolved, Mint Director Mary Brooks moved quickly to get the coin into production. Instead of going through a public design competition, the job was turned over to Mint Chief Engraver Frank Gasparro.
Anticipating the new dollar coin, Gasparro had already begun work on the designs. Even though the first “Ike” dollar was not minted until November 1971, the first designs had the date of 1970. Although it is not clearly known why it took until late 1971 to mint the new dollar, speculation has it that there were various design deficiencies that delayed the production of the new dollar.
When a new coin is issued, it is not uncommon for collectors and the public to hoard a large portion of the coins released for circulation. And the release of the Eisenhower Dollar was no exception to process. Over time the new dollar made it into general circulation, but experienced the ongoing issue the American Public has with dollar coins, no one seems to want to use them! Since the new dollars were seldom encountered by the general public, the casinos also had a tough time keeping them on hand as people thought they were rare and kept them.
The year of 1975 saw a change to the design of the Eisenhower Dollar. Like the quarter and the half-dollar, the dollar coin underwent a design change to commemorate the upcoming Bicentennial. A nationwide contest was held and the winner was Dennis R. Williams.
His design of a Liberty Bell superimposed on the Moon was the winner. It is similar on the reverse of the Bicentennial type. Beginning in 1977, the dollar coin went back to its traditional design. Due to the lack of public acceptance, the Eisenhower Dollars were produced for the last time in 1978, opening the way for the ill-fated Susan b. Anthony dollar.
During its production run, the Eisenhower Dollar saw wide swings in production. Although over 676 million Eisenhower Dollars were produced for circulation, a couple of years saw very low production levels.
In 1973, the Philadelphia Mint produced slightly over2 million dollar coins, while the Denver Mint only produced 2 million dollar coins. In 1974, the Philadelphia Mint only produced 2.7 million dollar coins. The Denver Mint in comparison produced 35.4 million dollar coins. The peak production years were in 1975-1976, when the Philadelphia Mint produced over 117 million bicentennial dollar coins and the Denver Mint produced over 103 million dollar coins.
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