It has been a potential monster sitting right under everyone’s nose for over three decades. Of course, some will laugh at the notion of the 1971 Eisenhower dollar being anything special, but the numbers do not lie and this could well be a very surprising sleeping giant.
On the surface the 1971 Eisenhower dollar doesn’t appear to be anything special except for the fact that it was the first year of a new design. That usually means excitement and interest, but in the case of the 1971 Eisenhower dollar it lasted for a bit under 10 days. No one had even seen a dollar in circulation since the mid 1960s and they had all managed fine without dollars. Dumping a new non-silver dollar in circulation was more a pain in the neck than something the public would applaud.
Collectors were not likely to save many examples. They did purchase large numbers of the San Francisco 40 percent silver version and promptly lost money on those purchases. Moreover, collectors were in a generally foul temper with regard to the government over the prices of those 40 percent silver Eisenhower dollars. Additionally, collectors had just been through a period in the mid 1960s when the government had tried to make collectors the scapegoat for a national coin shortage and, to discourage collectors, had eliminated mintmarks for three years from circulating coinage.
There was also the denomination. The dollar was selected to honor Eisenhower for the simple reason that there were no other possible denomination to use unless you removed Lincoln, Jefferson, Roosevelt, Washington or Kennedy from one of the other coins, a political no-no..
The mintage of the 1971 Eisenhower dollar was 47,799,000 pieces, which was actually a low total for the first two years of production, but it did nothing to encourage anyone to save examples. Any modest saving would have come from World War II veterans who had served under Ike or those who liked the Apollo 11 reverse.
However, there is little evidence of saving today. The 1971 lists for $10 in MS-63. The real potential of the 1971 is not, however, in a grade like MS-63 but in MS-65 and up. This is where its prices could go way up.
Over the years the 1971 has not exactly been flooding the grading services but it has appeared. Numismatic Guaranty Corporation has seen a total of 127 examples of which about 50 percent made MS-65 while three reached MS-66 and none higher. The Professional Coin Grading Service total was much larger and more interesting. They have graded a total of 1,223 examples of the 1971 and 305 made MS-65 with a mere 23 grading MS-66 and none better.
Now 305 in MS-65 sounds good but it is far below the normal MS-65 count for a Walking Liberty half dollar and they are hundreds or even thousands of dollars in MS-65. In fairness, more examples of the Walking Liberty half dollar are sent in, but no one sends an average 1971 Eisenhower dollar to be graded as you don’t spend the grading fee to learn you have a $10 MS-63.
There has not been a single 1971 Ike graded higher than MS-66. There are MS-67 1793 cents, there are branch mint gold coins in MS-67, there are all sorts of coins where there are MS-67 or better coins and in the case of modern issues there are usually MS-69 or MS-70 examples. But in the case of the 1971, nothing, and that is simply a stunning fact.