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Collectible Bowers: Among my favorites – modern dollars

The following is a re-post from Q. David Bowers’ weekly “Bowers on Collecting” column on the coin update.

I enjoy modern coins and often order new interesting items from the mint. I buy others on the marketplace. A few years ago I decided to build a full set of modern dollars from the Eisenhower from 1971 to the present day. I was there, so to speak, when the Ike motif was created. Chief engraver Frank Gasparro was a good friend with whom I discussed the designs and other aspects.

The design of the Eisenhower dollar released by the Treasury Department in January 1971. Move the mouse to enlarge.

The Treasury’s basic idea was to issue a dollar coin, which should be used in everyday trading and would last maybe 20 or 30 years, to replace dollar bills, which are often fouled within two years. A peripheral asset has been the provision of coins for use on gaming tables in Las Vegas and elsewhere. In 1971, “elsewhere” usually meant Nevada. These days, you can hardly throw a copy of the Red Book without visiting a casino.

However, if you’re looking for some text that focuses more on modern US dollar coins, then A Guide Book of Modern US dollar coins would be a good place to start.

The ikes were used in Las Vegas but weren’t very popular. In 1971 plastic chips were the order of the day.

1973-S “blue Ike”: envelope, Pliofilm coin holder and printed insert.

A full set of Ike dates and mintmarks from 1971 through the last issue, 1978, took about a month to build. I wanted editions and proof, and also one of the tiny changes of the early years, like details of the moon.

Then came the Susan B. Anthony Dollars 1979 to 1981 plus, surprise! – a tag-along edition in 1979. This was another Frank Gasparro design – not to his liking or those of the numismatic community. He and most of us were hoping for a Liberty cap motif that echoes the copper dime and half dime of the 1790s, a return to the classics. In Congress, however, political correctness rose and suffragette Susan B. Anthony was mandated.

1981-S Susan B. Anthony Dollar Type 2 PR-70 Deep Cameo.

When I assembled my set a few years ago, they were very easy to find in a combination of high-quality and beautiful looks. Indeed, if you are referring to modern dollars, building a series of “Susi” is a good way to go. While some people want MS-70 and Proof-70 coins in certified holders, some of which are expensive, you will be very happy with almost any brilliant proof, unless you build a PCGS or NGC registration set because of that almost all are gemstones. In fact, one in just Proof-65 would be a rarity! Mint state coins are a little more cautious, but MS-65 and 66 coins are inexpensive and can be handpicked for beauty.

The obverse of the 2017 Native American one dollar proof coin.

The Susies did not gain much importance as a substitute for the dollar bill. Hope springs forever, and the Treasury Department did not give up. Next came the Sacagawea dollars – fun to collect and one of my all time favorite series. It was hoped that these “golden dollars” made of manganese bronze would finally prevail.

I’ll look into these in more detail next week. If you are a specialist in Sacagaweas, you probably know these two interesting facts:

  1. There’s a rarity in the series due to General Mills and boxes of Cheerios cereal!
  2. Millions of Sacagawea dollars are in circulation every day by the time you read these words, but not in the United States!

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