USA Coin Album: Golden Anniversary of the Eisenhower Dollar — Part Four

Posted on 10/11/2022

One fascinating by-product of the Bicentennial coin program is a unique 1776-1976 silver-clad, Proof Ike dollar featuring the Type 2 reverse and bearing no mintmark.

The minting of Eisenhower dollars for general circulation resumed in 1974, following a hiatus the previous year when these coins had been struck solely for inclusion in the annual Uncirculated Sets. The Philadelphia and Denver Mints struck roughly 27 million and 45 million Ike dollars, respectively. This production, however, was not achieved in a single calendar year. The 1974 date was carried into the following year for a very special reason — there would be no quarters, halves or dollars dated 1975.

Congress established the American Revolution Bicentennial Commission on July 4, 1966, ten years ahead of the nation’s 200th anniversary. A broad range of programs were designed to honor this milestone, though altering America’s coinage was not included in these plans until almost the eleventh hour.

It wasn’t until October of 1973 that the Treasury Department announced an open design competition to provide bicentennial-themed reverses for the three highest denominations of current coinage. The design selected for the dollar was submitted by Dennis R. Williams and depicted Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell superimposed over the Moon. The obverse would remain unchanged, aside from the appearance of the dual dates 1776-1976.

Type 1 Reverse

Type 2 Reverse

As issued the Philadelphia coin struck for circulation in copper-nickel-clad were issued with the block lettering of Williams’ reverse model (Type 1) initially but were then modified to have the Serif Style lettering more in sync with the coin’s obverse.
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It was the Mint’s intention to begin releasing the Bicentennial coins into circulation shortly after July 4, 1975, and toward that end their production began in February of that year. (To prevent any coin shortages in the mean time, pieces dated 1974 continued in production as late as September of 1975.) The first Bicentennial halves entered circulation on July 7, while the quarters followed August 18. It was not until October 13, however, that the Bicentennial dollar made its debut. Production of all three circulating commemoratives continued through the end of 1976, after which time the normal designs were resumed.

The new coins were made in large quantities and met with general approval, though only the quarter dollar received widespread use in daily commerce. (The dollar and half dollar were coins that had enjoyed only limited circulation in recent years, and the introduction of commemorative issues only hastened their rapid departure.) It was the dollar’s reverse alone that drew some negative criticism for its awkward, block lettering. This seemed ponderous and unattractive even when viewed out of context, but it looked especially intrusive when compared to the slender, Roman font used for the coin’s obverse.

Before 1975’s end the Mint’s Engraving Department restyled this lettering to match that of the obverse, resulting in two major varieties for the currency pieces struck by the Philadelphia and Denver Mints. The modified, or Type 2 reverse was utilized throughout 1976’s production by both mints, making this variety noticeably more common that the Type 1, though neither is rare.

$1976-D $1
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1976-D $1
Type 1 and Type 2 Reverses
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Type 1 Reverse Detail
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The annual Uncirculated and Proof sets sold in 1975 features cents, nickels and dimes dated 1975, while the three larger coins were all dual-dated 1776-1976. The 1976 Uncirculated and Proof sets updated only the non-Bicentennial coins, so collectors found themselves with duplicates of the quarter, half and dollar that, for the most part, were indistinguishable from the ones found in the 1975 sets. The only saving grace was that the earlier sets featured a Type 1 dollar, while the 1976 sets included the Type 2 dollar.

Type 1 Reverse

Type 2 Reverse

The copper-nickel-clad Proofs were struck at the San Francisco Assay Office with both the Type 1 and Type 2 reverses.
Click images to enlarge

It was widely anticipated that collectors would desire sets of just the commemorative coins, so the US Mint added some new options to its regular line-up. Numismatists could purchase the three Bicentennial coins struck in the silver-clad composition used for the 1971-S through 1974-S Eisenhower dollars. These were coined solely during 1975 at the San Francisco Assay Office in both Uncirculated and Proof editions, and all feature the older, Type 1 reverse.

Naturally, I ordered one of each finish at $9 and $12, respectively. Later I received a partial rebate from the Mint when it decided that the original sales prices were too high. (That’s an event worthy of commemoration in its own right!)

As it is, sales continued for some years afterward, and the great silver speculation of 1979-80 forced the US Mint to raise its prices due to the coins’ higher intrinsic values. It was not long afterward that the three-piece sets were dropped from the Mint’s offerings, and the unsold coins were melted. The final results were spectacular, with nearly five million Uncirculated Sets sold and nearly four million Proof Sets.

The Proof and Uncirculated editions of the silver-clad dollars were struck solely in 1975 and are found with that year’s Type 1 reverse.
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One fascinating by-product of the Bicentennial coin program is a unique 1776-1976 silver-clad, proof Ike dollar featuring the Type 2 reverse and bearing no mintmark. How this one example came to be made, where it was made and how it escaped government custody remain a mystery nearly 30 years after its discovery. I was fairly new at NGC when this coin was submitted for certification in the mid 1990s. NGC did indeed certify it, and I prepared a Photo Proof® portfolio for its submitter. The back story provided was that this Ike turned up in a cash register at a Washington, DC department store, but such stories are always difficult to confirm. In any case, this dollar remains unique and highly desirable.

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