Where did the word “numismatics” come from? First documented as an English word in the early part of the 1800s, this word derived from a French adjective, numismatiques, which means "of coins." In turn, that word came from the Latin word for “coin.” The meaning of the word gets even more interesting when the Latin word gets traced back to the original Greek that it was borrowed from. After some iterations, the word came from the Greek nemō, or "I dispense or divide."


Know your U.S. coins: Eisenhower dollar

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:


Dimes and half dimes:


Half dollars:


Gold coins:

Community Comments

Numismatics is about more than just coins.

While many people use numismatics as a general term to refer only to the study of coins, this word actually refers to the study of all kinds of money. As such, it includes the study of coins and also paper bills, tokens, and other related objects that have been used as currency by various people throughout history, as well as noncurrency items like medals. Some kinds of money used at different points in history might surprise novice numismatists; for example, a culture might have used shells as a currency. 

Barter, or the trade of objects and services for other objects and services, has long been used in the marketplace and continues today. In some cases, the line between barter and currency still provides a topic of debate, but in most cases, articles about numismatics cover subjects like coins and paper money. Numismatics might become easier to comprehend by understanding the numismatic values of coins and paper money, and this refers to the value of a coin or note that is higher than the intrinsic or face value. In other words, this could also be called the collectible value. For example, a historical gold coin has an inherent value that is based upon its bullion value. It may also have a face value, or the actual value of the money assigned by the country that produced it. However, that same coin might be worth much more than the gold or the face value because it is rare, historically significant, beautiful, and/or designed by a famous artist.

Ultimately, understanding numismatics really depends upon understanding the nature of money. In the past, money might have been shells, gems, or precious metals. Today, most societies rely upon coins and paper money, but in this digital age, even that has begun to change as billions of dollars get exchanged every day electronically without the need for physical currency. Even more revolutionary, there are new digital currencies that have never been based upon any nation's physical currency. As it has in the past, it is likely that the study of numismatics will continue to evolve as currency evolves.