David Schwager, December 2011
A recent thread on the CoinTalk web forum asked collectors what US coin series is most undervalued. The consensus: Eisenhower dollars. This article looks at a subset of this series, the silver Ike dollar.
The Mint began making Eisenhower dollars in 1971 with two purposes. First, like the Roosevelt and Kennedy series, the coin honored a popular recently-deceased president (President Eisenhower died in 1970). Second, the coins served as slot machine tokens to replace the Peace dollars formerly used in Nevada. The act authorizing the Ike dollar specified a copper-nickel clad coin for circulation but also allowed for a 40% silver version for sale to collectors.
Like the 40% silver Kennedy half dollar of 1965–1970, the 40% dollar is “silver clad.” That is, the planchet is a sandwich with outer layers of 80% silver/20% copper and an inner layer of 20.9% silver/79.1% copper, giving the complete coin a silver content of 40% and an actual silver weight of 0.3161 troy ounce. The absence of the copper stripe on the coin’s edge distinguishes a silver Eisenhower from a copper-nickel clad example. Unlike the 40% Kennedys, silver Eisenhowers were only sold to collectors and did not circulate. The Mint made uncirculated and proof silver Ikes, all with S mint marks, in five years (’71, ’72, ’73, ’74, and ’76) for a total series of ten coins.
This ten-coin series has appeal for both beginning and advanced collectors. People like large silver coins, and silver Eisenhowers give the opportunity to own Mint State and Proof silver dollars for only $9 to $18 each. Even including the key date, the 1973S proof at $45, a collector can assemble a complete set for about $150. The design adds to the appeal, especially the inspiring “eagle landing on the moon” reverse based on the Apollo 11 insignia.
For the intermediate to advanced collector, Eisenhowers present the challenge of finding high-grade examples. Big coins receive many bag marks in normal minting and the obverses, with their low relief and large fields, show flaws well. Bag marks are so common that the Mint included a card with each uncirculated dollar stating in part, “The Treasury cannot guarantee that the uncirculated coins will be free from blemishes.” Availability, also, is surprisingly low, with most dealers carrying more Mint State Morgan and Peace dollars than Eisenhowers.
In addition to raw and certified coins, the collector may want to consider collecting Eisenhower silver dollars in original packaging. The mint sold uncirculated dollars, known as “Blue Ikes,” in cellophane flat packs inside of blue cardboard envelopes. Proof dollars, or “Brown Ikes’” came in black slabs held in brown boxes. For 1976 dates, the government also sold three-coin silver mint sets and silver proof sets, each including one 40% silver dollar, 40% half, and 40% quarter. Silver Eisenhowers did not appear in other mint or proof sets.
Prices for Silver
From Coin Prices Magazine
These values vary slightly with silver prices.