ZanzibarCoins's Blog

08 Aug 2019

New Series: The Eisenhower Dollar, Part One

Young Numismatists Exchange | ZanzibarCoins

In 1935, the Peace Dollar series was ended. Numismatists, collectors, throughout the United States looked forwards to the next dollar coin to come out. And none did. For 35, numismatists waited and hoped, and still not a single new dollar coin was released. But then, in 1971, 36 years after the Peace Dollar series was ended, the Mint released the Eisenhower Dollar to the general public. It was sold as a collector's item, and it was also released into circulation. The collector's items did well, but the coins in circulation did not fare too well. They were not popular with anyone anywhere. That is, they weren't popular, with the exception of in all the many casinos in Nevada. They were being used to replace privately issued tokens in the casinos. So they were popular there, but nowhere else.

The Eisenhower Dollar features President Dwight D. Eisenhower on the obverse, and a somewhat stylized image honoring the Apollo 11 Moon mission of 1969 on the reverse. Both designs were done by Frank Gasparro, and the reverse design is based on the Apollo 11 mission patch that was designed by the astronaut Michael Collins.Let's start at the beginning, shall we? :)

In 1965, because of the rise in bullion prices, the Mint began to strike quarters and dimes as copper-nickel clad. They left the half dollars with silver in them, although they altered the amount. In 1970, they took the silver out of half dollars. So, when they started minting the "Ike" Dollars (as they are often called) in 1971, they decided to make them copper-nickel clad as well. With the exception of special collectible coins, which would be 40% silver. This was actually a compromise, because there was quite the debate about whether the new dollar coin should be in base metal of made with 40% silver. This dispute was what kept the coin from being produced sooner, actually. When Eisenhower died in March of 1969, there were quite a few proposals that were introduced saying that they should honor him with the new dollar coin. However, though the bills commanded wide support, the production of an actual coin to honor him was, as I mentioned, delayed thanks to the coin composition dispute. The compromise was reached in 1970, and President Richard Nixon signed legislation that authorized mintage of the new dollar coin on December 31, 1970. New Year's Eve for a new coin. :)

Outside of collector circles though, and of course, the casinos, the new dollar coin was not only not popular, but it barely circulated at all. The dollar coin was minted from 1971 to 1978 (although 1970 -dated coins were minted), although no coins were minted with the date 1975. Instead the coins minted in both 1975 and 1976 have a double date: 1776-1976, in honor of our country's bicentennial of independence. The bicentennial dollars feature a special reverse designed by Dennis R. Williams, with the Liberty Bell superimposed against the moon. In 1977, the Mint started trying to replace the Ike Dollar with a smaller coin. But that is a bit farther off in the Ike Dollar's history...

The silver dollar had never been a popular coin, excluding collectors of course, and it circulated practically nowhere except for out in the West. They simply served as a means for monetizing metal and they usually sat in bank vaults after they were struck. The Peace Dollar had been the last circulating dollar made of silver, and it was not struck after 1935. In most years in the quarter century after that, the bullion value of a silver dollar did not exceed 70 cents. However, in the early '60s, silver prices began to rise, and the huge stocks of silver dollars that were in the hands of banks and the government were obtained by citizens through the redemption of silver certificates. This ended up causing shortages of silver dollars in the western states where the dollars actually circulated, and people in those states soon began to seek the issuance of more silver dollars.

So, on August 3rd of 1964, Congress passed a legislation that provided for the striking of 45 million silver dollars. This legislation was enacted when the coins vanished from circulation as the price of silver began to rise, and rose past 1.29$ per ounce, making the coins worth more as bullion than as currency. The new coins were intended to be used at Nevada casinos and in other places out West where "hard money" was popular. Despite the efforts of Mint Director Eva Adams and her staff to change the minds of the legislation makers, and the legislation pushers, the Denver Mint began striking 1964-D Peace Dollars, on May 12, 1965 (the Mint had congressional authorization to continue striking 1964-dated coins into 1965.).

The new coins were announced to the public on May 15, 1965. The announcement was met with a storm of objections. Both the public and many of the congressmen saw the issue as a poor use of Mint resources at a time of severe coin shortages, which would only end up benefiting coin dealers. On May 24th, it was announced that the coins were only trial strikes, and that they had never really been intended for circulation. The Mint later said that 316,076 coins had been struck, and that all had been melted amid heavy security. The creation of another large dollar coin (but without the silver this time, thanks to the Coinage Act of 1965, which forbid the creation of silver dollars for five years, and also removed the silver from the dime and the quarter, and reduced the silver in the half dollar to only 40%.) was not seriously considered until after the death of President Eisenhower.

In 1969, Mint Director under the Nixon Administration Mary Brooks sought the recreation of the dollar coin. she wished to keep it a silver dollar, but the rising bullion prices, which were already threatening the continued use of silver in the Kennedy half dollar, were not going to help. Then it happened. On March 28th of 1969, the former president and World War II general Dwight D. Eisenhowerdied. It wasn'tlongafter that, that the New Jersey Representative Florence Dwyer, who was,like Eisenhower, a Republican, suggested that the proposed dollar coin bear his likeness.Connecticut CongressmanRobert N. Giaimo filed a billto authorize an Eisenhower dollar, but to be struck without silver content. Henoted that the coin would prove useful both in casinos, and for the vending industry, sincethey werestarting to sell higher-priced items.On October 3rd of 1969, the House Banking Committee passed legislation for a silverless Eisenhower dollar, with Wright Patman, the House's chairman, stating that he hoped to have it approved by the full House in time for the late president's birthday on October 14.Unfortunately, on October 6th, the bill's sponsors lost a procedural vote which would have allowed for no amendments. While some representatives spoke against the manner in which the legislation was to be considered, Iowa Congressman H.R. Grossobjected to the base-metal composition of the proposed coin, saying "You would be doing the memory of President Eisenhower no favor to mint a dollar made perhaps of scrap metal."On Eisenhower's birthday, October 14th, both House's voted.However,though the House passed the administration-backed bill for a base metal dollar, the Senate passed the bill with the amendment created by the Colorado Senator, Peter Dominick. The amendmentcalled for the new coin to be minted in 40% silver. Instrumental in the passage of the Senate version of the bill with this amendment was a letter from Mamie Eisenhower, in which she recalled that her husband had liked to give silver dollars as mementoes, and that he had actually gone to some effort to obtain silver dollars that had been struck in the year of his birth, which was 1890.Idaho Senator James McCluresaid, "It is somehow beneath the dignity of a great president like General Eisenhower to withhold silver from the coin." On October 29th of 1969, the Texas Representative Robert R. Casey introduced legislationproposingthat the new coin honor both Eisenhower and the recent Apollo 11 Moon Landing. These propositions would become part of the enacted bill that authorized the Eisenhower dollar.Casey had actually originally wanted the mission theme of Apollo 11, "We came in peace for all mankind," to appear on the coin. However, the Mint informed him that there was simply not room on the coin for that inscription, so he settled for requiring that the reverse design be emblematic of the Moon Landing theme.

In March of 1970, both houses reached a compromise: 150milliondollars would be struck in the 40% silver alloy for collectors and others of the sort. Thecirculationdollar however, would have no silver, and would be struck in much larger quantities. The 17.4 million troy ounces ofsilver that would be needed to strike thecollectors' pieces would come from bullion already held by the government. McClure described the deal as"a lot less than the country deserves, but a lot more than it appeared we would get."The main reason for having the collector's edition be the onewiththesilver was to avoid the hoarding which had ended up driving the Kennedy half dollar from circulation.

However, thecompromise did notguaranteesmooth sailing ahead. The bill passed the Senate in March of 1970,butit was blocked in the House by Representative Patman, who was absolutely determined to end silver in all of the coinage. The Senate passed the bill again in September,althoughthis time they attached it as ariderto a bank holding company bill that Patman sought. (Clever move there...) The bill, which also included provisions to eliminate silver from the half dollar and to transfer the rare silver dollars to the GSA, was approved by a conferencecommitteeand ended up passing both houses! Nixon had intended to let the bill pass into law without his signature. However, aides realized that, since Congresshad adjourned, him not signing the bill wouldactually end up pocket vetoingit. Learning of this, Nixon hastily signed the bill on December 31, 1970, mere minutes before the midnight deadline.

With that, the Eisenhower dollar was brought intoexistence. More to come! Stay tuned! :)


Eisenhower Dollar - Wikipedia,

The Red Book, 2018 edition,

Silver Dollars and Trade Dollars of the United States: A Complete Encyclopedia- Q. David Bowers,

Walter Breen's Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins - Walter Breen,

Coin World Almanac,

The Authoritative Reference on Eisenhower Dollars- John Wexler; Bill Crawford; Kevin Flynn,

A Guide Book of United States Coins 2014 - R.S Yeoman

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