Eisenhower Dollar Series
Overview of the Series
The Eisenhower dollar was the first modern dollar coin after the Peace Dollar. It also marks the last "large" dollar created by the Mint for regular circulation. Also, this coin, at least the copper-nickel version, was the most difficult coin to strike by the Mint, requiring the most pressure of any other regular US coin due to its size and copper-nickel composition.
Coins in the Set
A complete set of business-strike and proof Eisenhower Dollars comprises 34 total coins (23 business, 11 proof) with "intended" varieties. By "intended," I mean only coins that the Mint actually meant to strike; things like doubled-dies or clashed dies or various errors are not included. The intended varieties include the 1972 Type I, II, and III which was where the Mint was experimenting with the design to make it strike better. The only way to tell the difference between them is by looking at the little Caribbean islands off the coast of Florida on the small globe of Earth on the reverse. The other varieties were during 1976, which includes the whopping 9 different bicentennial coins which are various combinations of: Clad or silver composition; blank, D, or S mint marks; business or proof strike; and Type I or Type II (thick or thin reverse letters).
The real key of the set is the 1972 Type II coin. It is believed that only one die was used to strike the Type II from Philadelphia, which means that there are only an estimated 100,000 out of nearly 76,000,000 coins. The highest-graded examples are only MS-66, too, meaning that even lower-grade uncirculated examples bring a large premium. This coin is equivalent to the 1955 DDO Lincoln cent or the 1938 3-legged buffalo nickel.
There are a few semi-key coins. These are the 1971 in nice condition and well-struck, 1972 Type I and III, and 1976 Type I (Clad).
Difficulties Assembling the Set
Coins for this set - all 35 of them - are not too difficult to locate. Even the key dates come up for auction several times a year (such as at Teletrade.com, Heritage (coins.ha.com)). The real difficulties, however, are locating nice, untoned examples of the later-date business strikes.
In general, the 1971-'72 coins (P & D mints) are easiest, I've found, to locate that have a minimal amount of the ugly greenish-yellowish-brownish toning that plagues the clad coins in the series. Once you get to '76, '77, and '78, however, you're going to have to compromise, at least for the grades that I'm collecting. The bulk of them have that toned color, and almost all of them have at least the start of it.
However, if you're willing to put up with a significant amount of the color, then you can get the coins much more cheaply since others (like myself) hate that color. If you're willing to put up with at least a little toning, then you can get the coins "at market," or for about what the average auction price has been over the last few months. If you're looking for "blast grey" (as opposed to "blast white," a term used for silver coins), then you're going to pay through the nose when those coins come up for auction.
A good example is my '73 D and '74 versus my '72 Type I. The '73 D and '74 are both pretty lustrous and lack much of any toning (except the start of it on the '74). The average auction prices for them over the previous 6 months were around $45 and $50, with the buyer's fee (so around $38 and $42 without). They cost me $65 and $60, respectively, without the buyer's fee.
This is in contrast with my '72 Type I. Market price for that runs around $325 in MS-65. I purchased my example for $39 - less than 15% of the going rate. Why? A few reasons, I think. First, it was NGC- vs. PCGS-slabbed. Many people only go for PCGS coins because the PCGS registry only allows PCGS coins. Also, many think that PCGS is a little stricter in their grading standards and so an MS-65 NGC may only grade MS-64 by PCGS. A third reason is that this particular coin is a little toned.
The same is true for my '72 Type II, which is a $200 coin in MS-63 that I bought for $100. It's in a PCGS slab, but it does have some toning on it and some uneven toning (like a swath of it) on the reverse. But, in terms of finding the key date to the series for half-price, I'm willing to put up with a little toning.
The Story Behind Type I, II, and III in 1972
The Eisenhower Dollar was the most difficult coin by the Mint to strike in terms of pressure required. The copper-nickel composition was very hard compared to silver or gold alloys that had been used before, and the size of the coin upped the required pressure tremendously. Because of this, the reverse design was made with too-high of a relief to properly strike given the budget, time, and technological constraints in the early 1970s.
To address this, two different varieties were made, the Type I (low-relief) and II (high-relief). The Type I were only used on business strikes (blank, D, and S uncirculated) while the high-relief was used for proofs in 1971.
In 1972, the Type II dies were used to make both the proof and uncirculated S coins. Type I were used in Denver all year. But, in Philadelphia, at some point during the year, a Type I die was switched for a Type II. This may have been by accident or it may have been an experiment to see how it would strike on the CuNi planchets vs. the silver (as in the S uncirculated). As I stated before, it is believed that only one die is responsible for all of them. Later in 1972, better steel was available and a modified high-relief design (Type III) was created. These were used on the remainder of the Philadelphia coins throughout 1972.
After 1972, the Type III dies were used throughout the series until 1976 and the bicentennial designs were created.
An inexpensive way to see all Types from would-be 1972 without spending a lot of money is to procure the silver business-strike examples from San Francisco from 1971 (Type I), 1972 (Type II), and 1973 (Type III).
My Collecting Goal
My goal with this set was to collect a complete set in certified PCGS holders (NGC only for key or semi-key coins). For proofs, my goal was all PF-69DC/UC grade. For the business-strike P and D, my goal was MS-65 except for the 1972 Type II, which was MS-63. For the business-strike silver S, my goal was MS-67 except for 1971, which is MS-66. This set should "retail" about $2500 when completed, though I expect to be able to complete it for around $1000-1250. (Link to PCGS's (inflated) price guide for Eisenhower Dollars.)
A Note on the Photographs: Because I'm collecting these in slabs, it is very difficult to take good photos of the coins because (1) I'm photographing through thick plastic, and (2) that plastic is scratched and has dust that accumulates no matter how many times I wipe it off. So keep in mind that the actual coins look better than the photographs make them out to be.
|1972 Type I||Clad||Business||YES||MS-65 (NGC)|
|1972 Type II||Clad||Business||YES||MS-63|
|1972 Type III||Clad||Business||YES||MS-65 (NGC)|
|1976 Type I||Clad||Business||YES||MS-65|
|1976 Type II||Clad||Business||YES||MS-65|
|1976 D Type I||Clad||Business||YES||MS-65|
|1976 D Type II||Clad||Business||YES||MS-65|
|1976 S (Type I)||Silver||Business||YES||MS-67|
|1976 S Type I||Clad||Proof||YES||PR-69DC|
|1976 S Type II||Clad||Proof||YES||PR-69DC|
|1976 S (Type I)||Silver||Proof||YES||PR-69DC|
|1978 D||Clad||Business||YES||MS-65 (NGC)|
Notes on Some Coins
1971 D, MS-65: This coin has some peweter-blue toning that doesn't really show up in pictures and only under some specific lighting (for better or worse).
1972 Type I, MS-65: I went with NGC on this one because it was taking me a long time to find a relatively untoned coin in MS-65 in a PCGS slab.
1972 Type II, MS-63: There's some non-uniform toning on this piece, as though it had been wrapped partially in paper at one point, but it's fairly minor ... especially for the price and the overall light toning.
1972 Type III, MS-65: I went with NGC on this one because it was taking me a long time to find a relatively untoned coin in MS-65 in a PCGS slab, and though this one is slightly toned, it's still pretty good compared with a lot that are out there.
1973 S Clad, PR-68DC: I bought this coin before I actually had a specific collecting goal in mind, and before I realized that a PR-69DC coin would cost about as much as it costs to slab the coin, anyway. I'll probably upgrade/replace it at some point, but that's not at the top of my priority list.
1977 D, MS-65: I should've paid slightly more attention to this coin's photo on the online auction. It showed fairly little toning compared with the '77 Ds I'd seen over the prior year and I was fairly pleased with that. There was another one I could've bid on, but this looked better in terms of a more even color. So I bid but then realized that there were a fair number of scratches going up towards the "L" in "LIBERTY." When I got the coin in-hand, the scratches turned out to be what I think is over-zealous die polishing. I say this because they are only in the field, which is the high point of the die, as opposed to also on the devices (letters and Ike's face) which are the low points of the die, and so harder to polish but nearly impossible to miss if actually trying to clean the physical coin. So it's technically a mint error as opposed to alteration of the coin. (How's that for post-hoc rationalization?)
1978 D, MS-65: I was getting tired of waiting and ended up just buying a moderately toned coin. Ta-Da! Set is complete!