Some 30 years or so ago, a collector walked into a Maryland coin
shop with a 1973-S Eisenhower dollar, an album and a problem: he
couldn’t find a hole for the coin in the album.
Dealer Peter Boyer of Coins of the Realm, Rockville, Md., took the
customer’s coin and album, and attempted to find a spot for the coin.
He failed, and after ruling out a problem with the album and checking
further, told the customer that the coin shouldn’t exist.
Two different authentication/grading services have since certified
the coin as an Uncirculated 1973-S Eisenhower dollar struck on a
copper-nickel clad planchet rather than on a silver-composition
planchet as it should have been. It is one of maybe just three
examples that have been certified and is the true “discovery” piece,
even though its existence was not revealed until mid-June, after the
coin’s current owner read about the discovery of two other pieces that
were certified during the last few years.
Boyer, realizing in the 1980s that the Eisenhower dollar was
potentially rare, bought the dollar from the customer, who also walked
out of the shop with the right coin for his album. Boyer told Coin
World June 26 that he believes he paid the collector somewhere in
the range of $750 to $950 for the coin.
Not too long afterward, one of the shop’s regular customers paid a
visit to the store. The Maryland collector had been a loyal customer
of the company since the firm’s founding in 1974 (and still is,
according to Boyer) and had just become interested in error coins in
the early 1980s, so Boyer mentioned the coin to him when he asked if
Boyer had anything “interesting.” The collector recently told Coin
World he “took a chance” and bought it; both Boyer and the
collector (who has asked Coin World for anonymity) recall
that the price paid was about $1,500.
The parties to Boyer’s original purchase and then sale of the coin
to the Maryland collector are a little unsure of the timing because
decades have passed, but at some point, as part of one of the
transactions or during transaction negotiations, the coin was sent to
ANACS for certification. The coin was returned with a certificate
dated Sept. 19, 1983, and registered to Coins of the Realm.
The coin has rested in the Maryland collector’s collection for
decades, its existence not widely known. Then the collector read a
story in Coin World’s Aug. 1, 2011, issue about the discovery
and authentication of the “second” known example of the coin, which
had been certified by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. and given a grade of
About Uncirculated 58.
This “second” piece had been obtained by a collector at a
California bank at face value.
That 2011 article also mentioned as the “discovery” specimen a
piece acquired in 2008 and also certified by NGC, given a grade of
Mint State 67. That piece was initially acquired as a regular
Uncirculated 1973-S Eisenhower silver-copper clad dollar and was not
authenticated as an error until later.
At the time of the 2011 article, the collector community was
generally unaware of the piece ANACS authenticated in September 1983.
However, the owner of this original “discovery,” having read the
recent coverage, has decided to make public the existence of his coin
and the story of its discovery.
What makes the coin unusual?
The collector’s coin was struck from Uncirculated coin dies on a
planchet intended only for a Proof edition with the 1973 date and S
All three known pieces were struck on copper-nickel clad planchets
(outer layers of 75 percent copper, 25 percent nickel, bonded to a
core of pure copper), of the kind used for circulation strikes at the
Philadelphia and Denver Mints and for some Proof strikes. The three
examples should have been struck on a silver-copper clad planchet (80
percent silver, 20 percent copper, bonded to a core of 21.5 percent
silver 78.5 percent copper).
Three different versions of 1973-S Eisenhower dollar were struck
deliberately: a Proof copper-nickel clad version, a Proof
silver-copper clad version and an Uncirculated silver-copper clad version.
The 1973-S Eisenhower silver-copper clad dollars were sold
individually — the Proof coins were placed in a hard plastic holder
that was housed in a brown cardboard box (the “Brown Ikes”), with the
Uncirculated silver versions placed in a soft plastic holder that was
then inserted into a blue envelope (the “Blue Ikes”). The
copper-nickel clad Proof versions of the coin were placed into the
six-coin 1973-S Proof sets.
With the San Francisco Assay Office (the then official designation
of what today is again known as the San Francisco Mint) striking both
Uncirculated and Proof versions of the 1973-S Eisenhower dollar, and
with planchets of both compositions in play, it is possible that some
planchets made of the copper-nickel clad composition, intended only
for Proof production, were mixed with the silver-copper clad planchets
being used to strike Uncirculated versions.
Buying the coin
The Maryland collector who recently revealed the existence of his
coin also reflected on his purchase.
“One day ... I wandered into the store just to see what
interesting coins they had and they showed me the 1973S dollar,” he
writes in an email.
“We all discussed the coin recognizing that it could be one of a
kind or that additional specimens could be discovered. Our collective
guess was that it was not likely that it was a common error since
nobody who worked there had heard or seen another example of this
error and this was almost 10 years after the mint date.”
The collector continued: “I was trusting them because for me they
were the experts and I was a collector with limited access to a lot of
data. Recall that this was before the internet. So I took a chance and
A few years ago, he decided to have the coin slabbed, so he
arranged for Coins of the Realm to send it to Professional Coin
Grading Service for grading. PCGS graded the coin MS-66.
As for why he finally decided to come forward to reveal the
existence of the coin and its history, the collector said: “Since I
owned this coin and recognized that it is rare I would occasionally
search the internet for other specimens of the same error. I remember
reading with a smile the discovery of the ‘first’ 1973S and more
recently I discovered [Coin World’s 2011] article about the
second known specimen. I figured that it was time to just get this out
there as well so that the collecting community can get an accurate
count of the number of 1973S errors that exist.”
For now, the collector community knows of at least three pieces.
Could there be more?
Collectors should look closely at their Uncirculated 1973-S
Eisenhower dollars in the blue packaging or at those pieces in their
albums that they removed from their original U.S. Mint packaging.
While both compositions used for the dollars in 1973 are clad
compositions, the demarcation between the center core and the outer
layers is much more obvious on the copper-nickel version than on the
silver-copper coins. The pure copper core sandwiched between two
layers of copper-nickel should be easier to identify than the
silver-copper core on the precious metals versions.
Any pieces suspected of being of the wrong composition should
probably be submitted to an error specialist or grading service for
attribution and authentication.
First coin’s future
According to the Maryland collector, the coin is probably the most
valuable piece in his collection, which also holds such pieces as a
1955 Lincoln, Doubled Die Obverse cent, “but since there is no
established market for this coin [its value is] just an educated guess.”
As far as Coin World could determine, the 1980s
transactions are the only ones for an example of the coin in which the
seller and buyer recognized the piece as an error. In earlier news
coverage about one of the other examples, error coin specialists were
cited as stating an example of the coin could bring from $5,000 to
$10,000 if it were to sell today.
Nonetheless, “I plan to keep the coin — I’m in my 50s and have no
current intention to sell it,” the Maryland collector said.
He added, “When I started collecting coins at Coins of the Realm
in the 1970s I was not old enough to drive and my parents had to take
me there. So despite the fact that I have owned the coin almost 30
years I have some years to go before I would consider selling it.” ■