HomeNewsRare 1971 Eisenhower Silver Coin Is Worth a Fortune: Here’s How Much

Rare 1971 Eisenhower Silver Coin Is Worth a Fortune: Here’s How Much

by TK Sanders
Photo Illustration by Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

An incredibly rare silver coin just sold for a staggering $264,000 at auction after two weeks of furious bidding. The coin surfaced in 2008 at a California trade show. A shrewd collector with an eye for rare pieces noticed the coin and picked it up for much less than its eventual worth.

Could you be sitting on a rare, valuable coin at this very moment? It’s not completely out of the question if you know what to look for and what holds value.

This particular “Ike” silver dollar looks just like the other roughly 6.8 million Eisenhower dollars that were minted in San Francisco in 1971. A similar coin in good condition will fetch $400 in today’s collector market — not bad for a silver dollar. So what makes this one worth more than a quarter million dollars?

Why Is This ‘Ike’ Worth so Much?

This “Ike” silver dollar is a prototype coin. This means that it served as the template for engravers to perfect the design before releasing the entire run into circulation. These silver dollars weren’t even released into circulation until 1974. This means that this particular coin predates all other replicas that became common currency.

Dallas-based auction house Heritage Auctions lavished the coin with praise and admiration ahead of the record-breaking sale.

“This is an extremely rare discovery of an early design stage for the first year of the Ike dollars that were made from 1971 to 1978,” said Jim Halperin, co-chairman of Heritage Auctions.

“There isn’t even an example of this prototype in the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian.”

The country’s foremost leader on American artifacts, the Smithsonian in Washington, does not own this prototype because only three exist in the entire world (as far as we know). The second “Ike” prototype coin surfaced in an Alabama pawn show 12 years ago. Some lucky collector bought the third on eBay in 2013. As of now, no others exist, unless one is sitting in your attic drawer right this minute.

“This was the first of only three known prototype Ike dollars found in the half-century since the coins were made,” Halperin said. “[They are the] birth certificate of America’s last silver dollar.”

Printing of this dollar, and silver dollars altogether, ended in 1978.

So What Distinguishes this Prototype Coin from the Others?

The primary difference between the prototype and the finished product is the moon on the back of the coin. On the “tails” side, an eagle is landing on a moon with some sort of plant in its talons. According to the auction house, other details are missing, too. Artists added craters and rocks later. They also used a different finishing coat. The prototype appears more shiny than its successors — almost mirror-like.

Apparently, a reflective surface is very common in prototypes. So if you own any particularly shiny old coins, maybe have them checked out by a professional.

The Professional Coin Grading Service, a California company dedicated to authentication, attribution, and encapsulation of rare coins, certified the coin.