100 Greatest Modern U.S. Coins Series: 1972 Eisenhower Dollar, Variety 2

The last entry we talked about, the 2000 Sacagawea Dollar/Washington Quarter Mule, focused on the idea that error coins are rare in the numismatic business. However, we also focused on the difference between naturally occurring errors and man made ones, noting that their importance can sometimes be tied to the event. Our next entry focuses on the idea of an error but relinquishes the meaning because the “tinkering” that ensued to test out the production of circulation strikes.

This next top 100 entry focuses on a coin from 1972 that ended up with not one, but three different varieties. With authors Scott Schechter and Jeff Garrett at the wheel of this fourth edition Whitman Publishing series, we will take a look at the so-called Variety 2 and how the direct involvement of its striking created one of the most important modern coins to date.

#21 - 1972 Eisenhower Dollar, Variety 2

This modern coin example is a true testament to the United States Mint’s trial and error process in order to expedite and keep up with the demand of coinage production of the everyday modern coin. The testing of the Eisenhower dollar dies in general concluded that the proposed design was too high in relief to execute the growing needs in production. To combat this issue, the Mint decided to strike the coin in a lower relief for circulation coins but keep the higher relief design for Proof coinage production.

Because of this change, more than 115 million Eisenhower dollars were able to be struck between both Philadelphia and Denver in 1971. On the flip side (no pun intended), the coins were lackluster. Their detail was weak and inadequate and the coins themselves were too flat. The Proof coins, which the original high relief design was kept for, were the exact opposite. The coins were effective and their eye appeal were something to behold next to the circulation strikes. However, the Mint was not happy with the outcome and was looking for a way to improve the design for the circulation coins and keep the ability to meet the high demand.

While the Denver mint continued the production of the low relief Eisenhower dollar design and pumped out 92 million coins in 1972, Philadelphia started “tinkering” as authors Schechter and Garrett describe. Around 50 million coins were produced at the mother mint in 1972 with the low relief design. However, there were 75 million recorded from Philadelphia that year. It was discovered that a higher relief design used to make the Proof coins was making circulation strikes coins during a test and performance run. These coins make up the rest of the total 75 million coins released into circulation. The first lower relief Eisenhower dollar coins were called Variety 1 and these higher relief designed coins were called Variety 2. The Variety 2 design is much more rare compared to the other two types identified from 1972. A third variety was introduced later on in the year as it was the design used for both Proof and circulation strikes at all the Mints in the following years. The Variety 3 design was said to have produced around 25 million coins.

The authors find that the best way to tell the three variations apart is to look at the earth featured on the reverse design. The Variety 1 coins are said to be flattened instead of round in the 9-11 o’clock portion in addition to the islands beneath Florida being underneath it or to the right and not the left. The Variety 2 coins are said to be round with no islands beneath Florida. The Variety 3 coins are said to have a round earth but three islands can be seen beneath Florida. All of these distinguishing details are said to be very representative of the deliberate design changes made to appease production challenges. The Eisenhower dollar coin in question, the Variety 2, is scarce and adds to not only its collectibility but its value, especially when found in higher grades.

Since its first edition ranking (#20), this coin has only moved down one spot.