What a difference a few decades can make. Going back to the time when Watergate was a big news story, Bill Gates was probably in a garage thinking about the marvelous things that might be done with computers – and the 1973 Eisenhower dollar seemed like a very special coin.
Gates will never return to his pre-Microsoft days, and with a little luck the nation can avoid another Watergate. In the case of the 1973 Ike dollar, it probably will never be as special as it seemed back then, but at least it is looking a bit better these days.
To understand the 1973 as well as the 1973-D Ike dollars, we have to go back to that era and try to understand what was actually on the minds of the public and collectors. By 1973 everyone was basically over the Eisenhower dollar. That might seem strong, but the Ike had gotten off to a bit of a bumpy start.
When the Ike was first released in 1971 the question was whether the country needed a one dollar coin, especially one that had no silver in it. The track record of dollar coins was not good. The only reason collectors were able to get pristine Morgan silver dollars from the Treasury in the early 1960s and later in GSA sales was because few wanted to use such coins when they were brand new. But Congress was intent on repeating past failures. The legislation that authorized the coin also offered a sweetener to collectors. Special 40 percent silver versions of the Ike would be produced just for them. It was a new idea at the time. At first it worked.
Sales of the new 40 percent silver dollars got off to a promising start and so did Ikes in circulation. Sales of the proof and uncirculated silver pieces were so high that they dropped in price on the secondary market. The first year mintage for the circulating coin was over 100 million from Denver and Philadelphia combined. The 1972 mintage was even higher. By the end of the year there were enough Ikes to give every American an example with a few left over.
Then the wheels started coming off the popularity bandwagon. When 1973 production rolled around there was no further need for circulating dollars. Also collectors were feeling burned about the 1971 and 1972 40 percent silver coins.
As it turned out, the Mint struck enough circulation quality Ikes to put into the 1973 annual mint set and no more. Collectors bought 1,767,691. That should have made the 1973 and 1973-D Ikes sensations, but they were overshadowed by the low mintage of the 40 percent silver proof. Demand had fallen to the point that only a million were ordered. This caused the price on the secondary market to sprint higher than the $10 issue price.
Though the spotlight was on the silver proof, the mint set containing the two clad Ikes rose above the $6 issue price as well. Today the value is almost $12. Double issue price is a bit of a miracle for a clad set of coins.
Sold individually, the clad dollars have a retail price in MS-63 of $12, but this reflects slabbing costs. Examples in higher grades are more expensive. Back in 1998 the coins were $3.40 each in MS-63. If scarce clad issues have a future, these dollars should benefit.
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