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Lower mintage, price make 1978 Ike a good buy

The 1978 Eisenhower dollar is one of the more interesting modern-date dollars. It is a tough coin to figure out. Available supplies have never really been tested, and until there is a real test, it is hard to know just how good or available this coin might prove to be over time.

By 1978, the Eisenhower dollar was already on its way out. Congress was excited by the idea of a new dollar in a smaller size. A group called Research Triangle Institute suggested that substantial savings could be made if the American public was convinced to use dollar coins and not $1 Federal Reserve Notes.

There were a lot of problems with the RTI report and with Congress’ reaction to it. These problems came together in the form of the Susan B. Anthony dollar, which was trumpeted as the “Dollar of the Future” but failed in a matter of months the following year.

For one thing, RTI’s enthusiasm was not realistic. While Eisenhower dollars certainly were not seen everywhere, they were seeing some use in regular circulation. This was not the sort of use RTI was talking about or that Congress was hoping to see, but the American people were using some dollar coins. However, the amount being used was not going to change all that much once a new, smaller dollar was put into circulation.

It is hard to know what officials were thinking back in 1978. The prospect of a new dollar was on the horizon, but Eisenhower dollars were struck anyway. The mintage at the main facility in Philadelphia was 25,702,000, while the Denver total stood at 33,012,890 and there were 3,127,788 San Francisco proofs as well.

Were these 1978 totals at all influenced by the fact that there were still a number of Bicentennial reverse Eisenhower dollars floating around? Large mintages of the Dennis R. Williams-designed Liberty Bell and moon reverse dollars had the potential to be enough for a couple years if they continued to circulate, but all of the Bicentennial reverse coins from the quarter to the dollar tended to disappear more quickly than was normally expected.

Were it not for this uncertainty, it would be tempting to claim that the Eisenhower dollar mintages of 1977 and 1978 were a pretty good reflection of demand at the time. It is interesting that, as the Anthony stockpile was being drawn down in later years (for many years), the dollar demand seemed to be about 25 million pieces per year.

There are a lot of unknown factors when it comes to the 1978 Ike dollar. With its mintage, it should be a somewhat better date, as only the 1977 regular business strikes (which were actually released into circulation) had a lower total.

However, there are other factors – such as the just over two million mint sets sold that year – that could help the potential supply. An even bigger factor would have been heavy saving, and that is also possible. Stretching back to the 1850s, when people suddenly started saving the large cents, there has been a pattern of Americans saving coins that were being discontinued. In addition to regular non-collectors, dealers have sometimes jumped in and saved large numbers of these coins as well. Did they here?

The 1978 Ike currently lists for a modest $6.50 in MS63 and $35 in MS65. The 1978-D (which had a higher total mintage) is priced the same in MS63 but is slightly less in MS65 at $30. Checking the grading services shows that the 1978 is not particularly rare, with Numismatic Guaranty Corporation and the Professional Coin Grading Service reporting comparable numbers. The lone exception is that NGC has seen the 1978-D in MS65 condition (4,097) about 5.4 times more than the 1978 in MS65 (762).

It may be years before we have answers about the 1978 Ike. Right now, we can only suggest that it is both lower mintage and lower priced, a combination that usually makes a coin a pretty good buy.

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News. >> Subscribe today.

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• The Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1901-2000 is your guide to images, prices and information on coinage of the 1900s.

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