In 1976, the US celebrated its 200th Independence Day, and the United States Mint held a contest to redesign commemorative coins for $1, 25c (a quarter) and 50c. The prize was $5,000, and the winner of the $1 reverse design was Dennis R. Williams. But how much is a 1776 to 1976 silver dollar worth? About $20, but some have sold for up to $850,000!
All About 1776 to 1976 Eisenhower Silver Dollars
These days, even the least media-savvy citizen knows about reselling. Thanks to shows like Pawn Stars and Antiques Roadshow, we’re all looking a little more careful at grandma’s vases and grandpa’s cigar box. But even back then, people knew anniversary coins were collectible, so the bicentennials were a big hit. The Eisenhower Dollar coins or large dollars are popular.
This coin features Dwight Eisenhower aka Ike on the obverse (heads side). He was the 34th President of the United States. And the reverse (tails side) has the moon and the Liberty Bell. Generally speaking, Americans prefer dollar bills to dollar coins, so the US Mint stopped making circulation dollar coins in 2011. Since then, they only come in collectible editions.
That means if you want a post-2012 dollar coin, you need to go to the mint. But you can still order rolls of earlier $1 coins from any bank, and you may find collectible treasures hidden in those stacks. From 1971 to 1978, all $1 coins had Ike on the obverse. But bicentennial dollars were unique because they had the moon and bell reverse, plus dual dating on the obverse.
Like all bicentennial coins, the 1776 to 1976 dollars were coined between 1975 and 1976, but none of them bear the 1975 date. Ike dollars were copper-nickel clad. The outer layers were 75% copper and 25% nickel with a copper core, so the overall composition of the coin was 91.65% copper and 8.33% nickel, with the alloy comprising the outer 1/3 of the coinage.
The public didn’t like them much because they were bulky, but they were a huge hit with slot machines in casinos, and at the tables too. Apart from these clad dollar coins, the mint made collector’s coins that were 40% silver and 60% copper. Many Ike dollars (both silver and clad) are in uncirculated condition since they had hardy construction and were barely used.
Common Flaws in Bicentennial Coinage
1776 to 1976 dollars have the letters DRW on the back, under the bell. They’re the initials of the winning designer, and they appear next to the bell’s clapper. The Ike dollar is a large coin measuring 1.5 inches or 38.1mm in diameter. The coin is 0.1 inches thick (2.58mm). The clad version weighs 22.68g while the silver is 24.624g. But coins with mistakes can be worth a lot.
Errors might occur during the minting process if the machine operator misaligns the die. That can lead to doubling, tripling, or quadrupling on the letters and images. They seem to blur or bleed over their edges, and these are called die errors. But sometimes, the die itself is damaged, transferring cracks and blemishes onto the coin batch to make thousands of coins.
Because these faulty dies can produce tons of coins with the same mistake, these flawed batches are called varieties, and they demand a different price. Die errors include QDO (quadruple die obverse) and DDR (double die reverse) while varieties might include S over D mint marks. You may also spot double denomination errors where the coin is the wrong size.
This happens if – say – a $1 coin is stamped on a 1c blank. (Coin blanks are called planchets.) More distinct errors include off-center coins, where the image and letters only cover part of the coin. So you might find a coin with half an eagle, or two overlapping bells, but they’re not worth much in resale. Let’s check out some common errors in the 1776 to 1976 silver dollar.
- Strikethrough tape – parts of the coin were blurred with tape
- 80% double strike – the second stamp overlaps at the bottom front and top back
- Strikethrough reeding – rim detail appears on the obverse of the coin
- Defective clad – part of the upper layer peeled off during minting
- Spivack error – a silver proof coin with no mint mark
When you’re reviewing and assessing coins, don’t get too excited about errors – they’re not all equal! Some strikethroughs and double strikes could earn $500 to $1,500 while double denomination errors can get you over $5,000! One of the most valuable error coins was a Denver clad coin minted on a silver San Francisco planchet. The coin sold for a solid $8,000!
Grading 1776 to 1976 Silver Dollars
Ike bicentennial dollars were minted in Denver (D mint mark) and Philadelphia (no mint mark). Philadelphia dollars come in two variants, sometimes called Type 1 (about 4M coins minted) and Type 2 (over 113M minted), with Type 2 having slimmer serif lettering on the reverse. This lettering style has a stronger relief effect with the writing raised just a touch.
Because of that difference in mintage, Type 1 Philadelphia coins fetch a higher price in secondary markets. Denver dollars are far more numerous, with about 21M Type 1s and 82M or so Type 2s. So if you’re checking your change, Ike dollars without mint marks get higher priority. The average price of bicentennial dollars is $20 to $40 depending on condition.
Bicentennial silver dollar proofs were only minted in San Francisco. They made close to 3M Type 1s and a little over 4M Type 2s. The San Francisco Mint also made about 5M 3-coin proof sets of uncirculated silver. Sets included a silver quarter, 50c, and dollar. The rarest Ike proofs are trial coins made by the winners at the Philadelphia Mint (with no mint mark).
Known as Spivack coins, these proofs should come from San Francisco, so they should have an S mark. But it’s believed a few specimens were minted in Philadelphia around August 1974. Apart from the coins made by the winners, some Spivacks were gifted to dignitaries and officials, so these coins are extremely rare and valuable. Only one has been found so far.
Start by checking your coin against a free photo grader like the one on the PCGS website. If your coin looks like it could be a high grade, you can consider paying the membership fee and getting your coin evaluated. Subscriptions start at $69 for PCGS and $25 for NGC, and NGC allows free appraisals. Below are some examples of 1776 to 1976 dollar evaluations.
|MS66+ Type 2||None (Philadelphia)||Cupronickel||$646|
|PR70 DCam Type 2||S (San Francisco||Cupronickel||$2,400|
|MS66 Type 1||None (Philadelphia)||Cupronickel||$3,360|
|MS69 Type 1||S (San Francisco)||40% Silver||$4,560|
|MS66+ Type 1||None (Philadelphia)||Cupronickel||$5,640|
|MS67 Type 2||None (Philadelphia)||Cupronickel||$6,000|
|MS66 Type 1||None (Philadelphia)||Cupronickel||$7,000|
|PR70 DCam Type 1||S (San Francisco)||Cupronickel||$7,657|
|AU55 Type 2||D (Denver)||Clad on Silver (Error)||$8,000|
|MS67 Type 1||D (Denver)||Cupronickel||$8,813|
|MS67 Type 1||D (Denver)||Cupronickel||$11,000|
|PR70 Type 1||S (San Francisco)||Cupronickel||$25,000|
|PR66Cam Type 2||None (Spivack)||40% Silver||$850,000|
To accurately gauge how much your 1776 to 1976 silver dollar is worth, you need commercial appraisal services. The two most trusted providers are NGC (Numismatic Guaranty Company) and PCGS (Professional Coin Grading Service). If your coin is worth less than $50, the grading fee will surpass the selling price, since grading can cost upwards of $300.
The NGC and the PCGS use an identical system to grade coins called the Sheldon Coin Grading Scale, with numbers that range from 1 to 70. Note that some numbers are missing from the list, but other than that, the grading system for both evaluators works as shown below. For coin collectors, the ideal specimen is either in Mint State or a verified Proof.
- PO – Poor (1)
- FR – Fair (2)
- AG – Almost Good or About Good (3)
- G – Good (4 and 6)
- VG – Very Good (8 and 10)
- F – Fine (12 and 15)
- VF – Very Fine (20, 25, 30, and 35)
- XF – Extra Fine or Exceptionally Fine (40 and 45)
- AU – Almost Uncirculated or About Uncirculated (50, 53, 55, and 58)
- MS – Mint State (60 to 70)
- PF – Proof (60 to 70)
PCGS also has a grade below PO which they call ungradable. You’d hate to have paid for a U! On the upper end, coins that are XF45 or above are considered plus grades while PF and MS 69s and 70s are seen as super-premium or exceptional coins. You might also see coins graded SP for specimen. These are earlier but less reflective proof-level coins from 1792 to 1816.
They were minted using lower levels of tech. So while they were the highest grade of archival coins available at the time, they didn’t have that distinct watery characteristic that you find in contemporary proof coins. As a reseller, if you’re working with common change that could net you $50 to $100, eBay is fine. But for graded coins, try Heritage Auctions for better rates.
The True Value of Bicentennial Dollars
How much is a 1776 to 1976 dollar worth? Clad cupronickel coins have a low melt value but a higher collector’s value. Silver coins have a melt value between $19 and $24 based on the current price of silver. But in high grades, you can get as much as $850,000 for a single silver dollar! Do you have any Ike dollars in your collection? Tell us in the comment section!