The 1973-S Eisenhower dollar was the result of a pattern from the first couple of years of Eisenhower dollars. It had been decided that there would be 40 percent silver Eisenhower dollars that were offered in proof and brilliant uncirculated to collectors. Those who wrote the legislation authorizing the Eisenhower dollar had been more than a bit optimistic, authorizing up to 150 million of the 40 percent silver coins. This was at a time less than five years after mintmarks, proof sets and mint sets had returned to production after all had been suspended from 1965 to 1967 in a deliberate attempt to discourage collecting. Collectors could forgive and forget, but to think that they would dash out and buy 150 million 40 percent silver Ike dollars was a bit on the optimistic side.
The huge gap in understanding between the nation’s hobby leaders, collectors and officials at the time was seen not only in the large authorization but also when the price of $3 for a BU 40 percent silver Eisenhower dollar and $10 for a proof were announced. The $10 struck many in the hobby as simply outrageous price gouging as a proof set at the time was $5 and that was seen as high as, back in 1964, they were only at $2.10. To charge $10 for a single 40 percent silver proof coin seemed like far too much in many minds.
The $10 was made all the worse when, despite threats of a boycott, 4,265,234 1971-S 40 percent silver Eisenhower dollars were sold. What made it worse is the price promptly fell to below the issue price. In fact, at its low, it was about $3 and even today the proof 1971-S is $11, a hair above the issue price.
That was bad enough but the same thing happened the next year even though sales dropped off to 1,811,631.
It does not take a genius to see a trend. By 1973, rather than order a proof for $10 and then watch it drop to $5, many more decided not to order. It was logical as if they had not paid $10 each for the 1971-S and 1972-S, by 1973, you could buy both for $10.
As so often happens with collectibles, it is the ones that people do not order or save that become valuable and when the sales total of the proof 1973-S was announced at 1,005,617, its price immediately began to soar.
The BU 1973-S also had a low total of 1,833,140 and while that has translated into a $20 MS-65 price today, it has always been the proof where the action has been in terms price movements.
The 1973-S proof took off in price. At its peak, it was up over $150 but that was around 1980 and, with the price of silver at $50, there were no rare coin prices at the time that are really fairly compared to prices today.
However, the 1973-S has been prone to big price swings over short periods of time. Back in 1998, it was down to just $15, but that price did not last long as it quickly jumped back to its current $45.
Over the long term, the place of the 1973-S is less certain as Eisenhower dollars will need an increase in collecting to push it higher. How many collectors are interested in the Eisenhower dollar are likely to be the key consideration in future prices for the volatile 1973-S.