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Ike Dollar Gets Boost
December 06, 2011

The Eisenhower dollar has not been fashionable among average collectors for about 30 years now.

If we limit discussion to the clad coins struck 1971-1978, average collector feelings verge on disdain.

After all, aren’t those Ikes little more than large examples of the clad junk that the Mint has churned out since silver was removed from dimes and quarters in 1965?

While I know there are some avid collectors of Ike dollars who might want to take exception to my characterization, this cannot obscure the general indifference.

Perhaps we are about to witness a change.

I saw an online story yesterday from written by the Associated Press that actually made Ikes seem appealing.

It’s source was Littleton Coin Company. I have to congratulate the firm on its public relations masterstroke.

It purchased 220,000 clad Denver Ike dollars. Many of them were in the original Mint canvas bags. According to the story, Littleton says the coins are worth well over $1 million. Now my collector mentality pushes me to immediately do the math. That gets me to individual coin values of $4.55 and up, depending on how much more than $1 million the coins might actually sell for.

Now collectors are not going to pay much attention to clad Ikes selling for $4.55 each. They would probably consider that low price as confirmation of their previous lack of interest in the coin.

However, Littleton makes sure that we know the coins were owned by a man in Montana and suddenly the memory kicks in of another time when dollars were made of silver and the Marlboro man rode the range in the Old West and got his pay in cartwheels that clanked on the bar, or were piled on a saloon poker table.

Suddenly, feelings about the Ike dollar started turning warm and fuzzy.

I remember going to a bank in 1971 to be the first on my block to get the new coin. I bought all of two coins, which represented $2 that my teenage self then couldn’t spend on other teenage interests.

I still have the coins. These two particular pieces I did not preserve as numismatic collectibles. I simply wanted to have two cartwheels that were current that I could look at, heft and marvel at. I still have them.

Then I ordered the 40-percent silver uncirculated and proof collector versions from the U.S. Mint.

When the Ike was introduced, at least the silver versions enjoyed numismatic popularity. Over 4 million proofs were purchased by collectors like me in that year along with almost 7 million uncirculated pieces.

The Mint would “kill” today for sales numbers like that for a collector coin. In comparison, the proof 2011 American Eagle coin, which also has a $1 face value, sold only 850,000 pieces, or 950,000 if we include the number in the 25th anniversary set. I enjoyed the story. I enjoyed the memories.

Thanks, Littleton. Good luck rebuilding the Ike dollar’s reputation and standing among collectors. It is a worthy undertaking.

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About the Author
David C. Harper has been a coin collector since 1963. He joined the Krause Publications editorial staff in 1978 and is currently editor of Numismatic News and World Coin News. He also edits two books annually, North American Coins & Prices and Coin Digest. He is the author of the Class of '63 column that runs each week in Numismatic News. His first bylined numismatic article appeared in the June 1971 issue of Coins Magazine and his various Krause Publications assignments included a stint as editor of the magazine 1980-1983. Harper received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1977. He had a double major of journalism and economics.

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