Any first coin of a new design has to be considered special and that is true for the 1971 Eisenhower dollar. Everyone has basically taken the 1971 for granted, but it may well be time to take a more serious look at an historic coin that just may prove to be a sleeper in the years ahead.
The Eisenhower dollar was an interesting new coin but it was released at a time when collectors weren’t especially interested in new or old issues. The government had been successful in 1965 when it declared war on collecting, blaming collectors for a national coin shortage.
It was a foolish claim as collectors had not caused the silver coins to literally disappear. The removal of silver from the dime and quarter and a reduction to 40 percent in the half dollar caused millions of perfectly patriotic Americans to start hoarding. When you add to that the natural saving of new Kennedy half dollars in 1964, you have all the elements for enormous numbers of coins being pulled from circulation. Collectors had very little to do with the situation.
That said, officials had their story, or in this case their scapegoat, and they were sticking to it. To discourage collecting they offered no proof or mint sets from 1965-1967 and removed all mintmarks. This did discourage collectors but it did not exactly make the atmosphere receptive for the release of a new dollar.
The new Eisenhower dollar did not have a terribly exciting design. Dwight D. Eisenhower was a great American hero, but his portrait does not really fill the obverse on a large coin. The reverse used the patch design for Apollo 11. The moon landing should have been commemorated in some fashion, but the patch really works better as a patch than a coin.
However, the Eisenhower dollar was a new coin and the assumption was that it would naturally be saved. This assumption was backed up by a Philadelphia mintage of 47,799,000 and an even larger total at Denver. Ever since, the assumption has been that there were plenty of 1971 Eisenhower dollars to go around. If you want an MS-63, that may well be true.
The problem comes in upper grades. Today an average Mint State 1971 Eisenhower dollar is only going to cost you a few dollars. For a few more dollars it is worthwhile to try to find a truly nice one, and that is where the fun begins.
The Numismatic Guaranty Corporation has graded hundreds of clad 1971 Ike dollars and to date they have only seen a single coin in MS-67 and none better.
The Professional Coin Grading Service has seen roughly 1,500 examples of the clad 1971 and they too have seen only one example in MS-67 and none better.
Under the circumstances, it is worth it to spend the extra money for an MS-67 or better if you can find one. It has the potential to be a very exciting and expensive coin just waiting to happen.