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The Most Valuable Eisenhower Dollars: Cherrypicker‘s Guide to Rare Ikes

Are you ready to take your coin collecting to the next level? If you‘re looking for a modern series with tons of upside potential, it‘s time to give Eisenhower dollars a closer look.

Minted from 1971 through 1978, Eisenhower dollars are loaded with scarce varieties and condition rarities that make them a target for savvy collectors. And with top examples routinely selling for five figures, Ikes are proving they can be just as valuable as their 19th century counterparts.

In this in-depth guide, we‘ll reveal the most sought-after Eisenhower dollars and show you exactly what to look for. You‘ll learn:

  • The history and key features of the Eisenhower dollar series
  • A complete checklist of valuable varieties and errors to cherrypick
  • Insider tips for building a top-flight Ike set on any budget
  • Why Eisenhower dollars are a smart bet for collectors and investors

Whether you‘re a die-hard Eisenhower dollar collector or just getting started with the series, this article will give you the knowledge you need to cherry pick the most valuable Ikes on the market.

The Eisenhower Dollar: A Modern Coin with a Classic Pedigree

First, let‘s set the stage with some background on the Eisenhower dollar and its place in U.S. coinage history. The Eisenhower dollar was first issued in 1971 to honor the recently deceased president and World War II general, Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The coin was also intended to fill a gap in U.S. currency – a dollar coin hadn‘t been minted for circulation since the Peace dollar series ended in 1935. With casinos and vending machines clamoring for a large dollar coin, the Eisenhower dollar was born.

Eisenhower dollar obverse
The obverse of the Eisenhower dollar features a portrait of the president by Chief Engraver Frank Gasparro. (Image: PCGS CoinFacts)

Designed by U.S. Mint Chief Engraver Frank Gasparro, the Eisenhower dollar features a bust of the president on the obverse and a modified rendition of the Apollo 11 mission patch on the reverse. The reverse was later changed to a view of the Liberty Bell superimposed on the Moon for the coin‘s 1976 bicentennial issue.

Eisenhower dollars were minted at three facilities: Philadelphia (no mintmark), Denver (D), and San Francisco (S). The San Francisco Mint produced Eisenhower dollars in both clad and 40% silver compositions for collectors, while Philadelphia and Denver struck clad coins for circulation.

Despite their large size and weight, Eisenhower dollars failed to circulate widely. Most ended up in casino vaults or were hoarded by the public as souvenirs. As a result, the U.S. Mint stopped production of Eisenhower dollars for circulation after 1978.

While short-lived as a circulating coin, the Eisenhower dollar series has become a favorite of modern coin collectors. Let‘s take a look at some of the most valuable varieties and errors that make the series so exciting.

The Most Valuable Eisenhower Dollar Varieties

Eisenhower dollars may have a short set list compared to iconic series like Lincoln cents or Morgan dollars, but they make up for it in sheer variety. From rare die types to exotic planchet errors, Ikes offer something for every collector‘s taste and budget.

Here‘s a checklist of the most valuable Eisenhower dollars across all issues, along with their key diagnostics, mintages, and recent auction prices:

Variety/Error Mintage Diagnostics Auction Prices
1972 Type 2 Proof Unknown Stronger strike, clearer Earth & feathers PR69DCAM – $41,125 (2016)
1976-S Silver Clad Proof 4,000,000 None, finest known examples PR70DCAM – $17,037.50 (2022)
1971-S Peg Leg Proof Unknown Die flaw in eagle‘s claw PR70DCAM – $9,075 (2005)
1971 Friendly Eagle Unknown Smiling expression on eagle‘s beak MS66 – $2,990 (2022)
1972 Doubled Die Obverse Unknown Doubling on date and lettering MS64 – $1,116.25 (2021)
1973-D Doubled Die Reverse Unknown Doubling on "ONE DOLLAR" MS66 – $1,410 (2015)

Recent auction prices based on PCGS CoinFacts and NGC Coin Explorer data as of October 2022.

The undisputed king of valuable Eisenhower dollars is the 1972 Type 2 proof. Struck from an early die type with stronger design details, only a small number were minted before the Mint switched to the more common Type 1 dies.

PCGS has graded just 19 examples of the Type 2, with the single finest PR69DCAM specimen realizing over $40,000 at auction. The 1972 Type 2 is readily identifiable by the stronger strike on the Earth and eagle‘s breast feathers, as seen in this close-up image:

1972 Type 2 Eisenhower dollar
The 1972 Type 2 proof Eisenhower dollar (right) has much sharper design details than the Type 1 (left). (Image: PCGS CoinFacts)

But you don‘t need a five-figure budget to cherrypick a valuable Eisenhower dollar. Die varieties like the 1971 Friendly Eagle and 1973-D Doubled Die Reverse can be found for under $1,500 in uncirculated grades.

Even the coveted 1972 Type 2 proof becomes more affordable in lower grades, with PR65 examples selling for around $10,000 – still a major score for any collector!

Errors and Oddities

Eisenhower dollars are also a rich hunting ground for dramatic planchet and striking errors. The large size and heft of the coins made them prone to mishaps during the minting process, resulting in some spectacular error coins.

Some of the most valuable and visually striking Eisenhower dollar errors include:

  • Off-metal strikings: Eisenhower dollars struck on planchets intended for other denominations, like the unique 1977-D struck on a 40% silver planchet that sold for $12,925 in 2020.

  • Double strikes: Coins that were struck twice by the dies, often with considerable rotation between strikes. A 1974-D double struck Eisenhower dollar graded MS64 by PCGS sold for $3,840 in 2015.

  • Broadstrikes: Coins struck without the retaining collar die, resulting in an oversized planchet. A 1978 broadstruck Eisenhower dollar graded MS62 by NGC realized $1,116.25 in a 2021 sale.

  • Bonded coins: Two or more coins stuck together during the minting process. A 1974-D Eisenhower dollar bonded to a Lincoln cent, graded MS65 by NGC, sold for $1,645 in 2021.

While most Eisenhower dollar errors are relatively affordable, the most dramatic examples can bring serious money when offered at auction. Error coin collectors prize Ikes for their impressive size and visual appeal.

Building a Valuable Eisenhower Dollar Set

Now that you know what to look for, you may be wondering how to put together a top-notch Eisenhower dollar collection. Whether you‘re starting from scratch or filling holes in an existing set, here are some tips to maximize the value of your Eisenhower dollars.

Focus on quality. When it comes to modern coins like Eisenhower dollars, quality is king. Collectors are willing to pay exponential premiums for coins in superb gem condition, with unblemished surfaces and full mint luster.

This is especially true for the 40% silver issues, which are prone to spotting and toning. A pristine, blast white 1976-S silver proof is worth multiples of a toned or spotted example.

Cherrypick die varieties. If you‘re working with a more limited budget, die varieties offer an affordable way to add value to your Eisenhower dollar set. Scarce types like the 1971 Friendly Eagle and 1972 Doubled Die Obverse can often be cherrypicked from ordinary rolls and albums.

Collect by PCGS or NGC registry set. Eisenhower dollars are extremely popular with registry set collectors. Both PCGS and NGC offer competitive registry set categories for Eisenhower dollars, including varieties, errors, and circulation strikes.

Participating in the registry can add an extra element of challenge and excitement to your collecting. Owning the number one finest Eisenhower dollar set is a major bragging right in the collecting community!

Here are some of the most avidly collected Eisenhower dollar registry sets, along with links to the current standings:

Consider buying certified. For high-value Eisenhower dollars, a certification by PCGS or NGC is a must-have. Not only does a third-party grade help weed out counterfeits, it also increases the liquidity and marketability of your coins.

Raw Ikes being represented as rare varieties are a major red flag – if it‘s not certified, be very skeptical of any seller claiming to have a five-figure rarity. For the ultra-rare issues like the 1972 Type 2 proof, "buy the holder" and stick with PCGS or NGC.

Market Trends and Investment Outlook

With their fascinating varieties and strong collector base, Eisenhower dollars can be tempting for coin investors. But are Ikes a smart place to park your money?

Like all rare coins, Eisenhower dollars are a speculative investment at best. There are no guarantees in the coin market, and even the most coveted rarities can experience price volatility over time.

That said, the Eisenhower dollar series has seen steady gains in recent years, driven in large part by the growth of registry set collecting. Prices for condition-rare issues like the 1976-S silver proof have climbed steadily since the late 1990s, as seen in this PCGS price chart:

1976-S Silver Proof Eisenhower Dollar PCGS Price Chart
PCGS price data for the 1976-S silver proof Eisenhower dollar in PR69DCAM condition. (Chart: PCGS CoinFacts)

In 1998, a PR69DCAM example of the coin sold for just $173. By 2022, that same coin was worth over $3,000 – a more than 16x increase in value!

While past performance doesn‘t guarantee future results, the trajectory of the Eisenhower dollar market looks promising for collectors and investors. With more collectors discovering the series every year and top examples achieving five-figure prices, there‘s plenty of room for growth.

However, it‘s important to remember that rare coin investing is not without risks. Eisenhower dollars are a highly specialized market, and liquidating a major collection can take time and effort.

As with any asset class, it‘s crucial to do your own research and buy from reputable dealers. Treat Eisenhower dollars as a hobby first and an investment second, and never spend more than you can afford to lose.

Eisenhower Dollars: Undervalued 20th Century Treasures?

In the end, only you can decide if Eisenhower dollars are right for your collecting goals and budget. But one thing is certain – these big, bold coins are packed with challenges and rewards for the savvy collector.

Whether you‘re chasing the elusive 1972 Type 2 proof or just looking for a fun modern series to explore, Eisenhower dollars have something to offer. And with many key varieties still flying under the radar of most collectors, now is a great time to start cherrypicking.

Who knows – the next five-figure Ike could be waiting in your pocket change right now! So dust off your reference books, break out your loupe, and start the hunt for valuable Eisenhower dollars today.

References and Further Reading