Know your U.S. coins: Eisenhower dollar

Circulating dollar honors military hero, president
By , Coin World
Published : 03/16/15
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The Eisenhower dollar traces its birth to the March 28, 1969, death of military hero and 34th president Dwight David Eisenhower.

Soon after his death, legislation calling for a dollar coin depicting his likeness was introduced in Congress. A dollar coin had not been produced since 1965, when 1964-D Peace dollars were struck (and destroyed before entering circulation).

Up to that time, the last circulating dollar had been produced in 1935 bearing the Peace designs.

COIN VALUES: See how much Eisenhower dollar coins are worth today

The proposal for the dollar coin for Eisenhower had widespread, nonpartisan support. Richard M. Nixon, who served as vice president during Eisenhower's presidency, was sworn in as president two months before Eisenhower died.

Debate on the dollar coin measure, however, bogged down over metallic composition. Should the coin be struck in copper-nickel clad, as the Treasury Department wanted, or in the same 40 percent silver clad alloy still is use for the Kennedy half dollar, as favored by Western mining interests?

U.S. Mint Director Mary Brooks stated the Mint would not oppose an amendment to include the production of a silver clad coin. Even though the Senate had passed legislation in October 1969 authorizing a silver Eisenhower dollar, the powerful chairman of the House Banking committee, Rep. Wright Patman, D-Texas, an opponent of circulating silver coins, kept the legislation from moving in the House for more than a year.

Meanwhile, the Treasury Department switched gears, opting to seek authorization to remove all silver from the half dollar and support a circulating 40 percent silver clad dollar. So sure the measure would pass quickly, the Mint produced obverse and reverse galvanos dated 1970.

The bottleneck was cleared when the One Bank Holding Act of 1970 came up for a vote. Patman had sought passage of the act for more than a decade, so he did not object when the Coinage Act of 1969 – seeking to remove silver from the Kennedy half dollar and authorizing Eisenhower dollar production – was added as an amendment to the banking legislation.

President Nixon signed the bill into law Dec. 31, 1970, minutes before a pocket veto would have killed the measure.

Silver and clad supporters were both appeased: circulation strikes would be copper-nickel clad; some struck for sale to collectors would be 40 percent silver clad.

The Mint's Chief Sculptor-Engraver, Frank Gasparro, designed Eisenhower's obverse portrait and modified the Apollo 11 space mission patch for the reverse. Production began in 1971 and continued through 1974 with minor design modifications.

Major changes were recommended for the coins for the nation's Bicentennial, and plans began three years before the event. Production of the coins began in 1975 and continued throughout 1976 to produce a sufficient quantity for circulation. Since all three coins were planned for a 1975 release, the Mint froze the 1974 date on the quarter, half dollar and dollar, with none of the coins bearing the 1975 date. The Bicentennial coins, including the dollar, have the dual dates 1776-1976.

A design by Dennis R. Williams was selected for the reverse of the dollar coin. Williams retained the moon concept to illustrate the modern era and superimposed it over the Liberty Bell. Soon after production began in mid-1975, Gasparro modified the reverse, especially the lettering, to improve its appearance.

All 1975-S Proof sets and 1975 Uncirculated Mint sets contain the Thick Lettering Reverse dollar. All six-coin 1976-S Proof sets and 1976 Uncirculated Mint sets contain the Thin Lettering Reverse dollar. The 1971-1974 eagle reverse resumed for the 1977 and 1978 dollars.

Keep reading from our "Know Your U.S. Coins" series:

Cents and half cents:

2- and 3-cent coins:

Nickels:

Dimes and half dimes:

Quarters:

Half dollars:

Dollars:

Gold coins:

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