A New Hampshire-based coin dealer has acquired a 5-ton stash of more than 220,000 rare Eisenhower $1 coins that were tucked away in a Montana bank vault for more than 30 years.
Littleton Coin Company has not disclosed the price, but it said Monday that the coins, most in sealed canvas bags from the U.S. Mint in Denver, are worth well over $1 million. Littleton plans to start offering them for sale next year.
The coins were shipped from the U.S. Mint during the 1970s to a Federal Reserve bank. A Montana man who does not want his name released bought and stored them in a local bank in Helena, where they sat until several months ago.
The “Ike” coins were minted from 1971 until 1978. The front shows President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who died in 1969, and the back commemorates man’s first steps on the moon, also that year.
Wayne Miller, owner of Wayne Miller Coins in Helena, said the New Hampshire dealer is likely exaggerating the value of the coins to drum up excitement. Miller has roughly 10,000 of the Ike coins and knew of a Great Falls family with a collection of roughly 250,000 of them. He suspects the family is the source of the coins being sold by the New Hampshire dealer.
Miller originally bought 19,000 of the “Ike” coins for roughly $1.11 apiece, and put a selling price of $2 or $3 on them. Even those in mint condition aren’t worth much more than $5, which is where he expects the New Hampshire dealer to price them.
“They’re not popular,” Miller said. “As one man described them, ‘old silver dollars will go clink and these go clunk. If (Littleton is) saying the collection “is worth a million bucks, they should know better than that.”
The coins themselves were not widely circulated, said Ken Westover, senior buyer for the 66-year-old coin company in northern New Hampshire. Many people held onto them as a tribute to Eisenhower, the nation’s 34th president and the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during World War II, just like they did with half-dollar coins of President John F. Kennedy, first minted in 1964.
“Because this coin was so large and heavy, it was considered inconvenient to carry around in your pocket,” Westover said. “A lot were used in gambling.”
David Lange, research director of the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation, a coin-grading organization in Sarasota, Fla., said that outside of casinos and a few western states, the coin had never really been popular with the public. “They always preferred paper money over dollar coins,” he said.
Westover called the “Ike” coin the “last of the large-size coins.” Before it was made, the last $1 coin, minted from 1921 to 1935, was the Peace dollar, which was made of mostly silver. The Eisenhower coins were referred to as “silver dollar” coins, but they were made mostly of copper and nickel, like others.
The acquired stash sits in more than 200 bags in denominations of $1,000. Stretched from end to end, the company says, the coins would be longer than 77 football fields and stack higher than the Empire State Building.
“They haven’t been handled a lot,” Westover said. “The overall quality of these coins is quite nice.”
John Hennessey, vice president of marketing for Littleton, estimated the price range per coin will be from $10 to more than several hundred dollars, depending on their condition.
“Ike dollars, even worn ones, bring a slight premium already, and of course uncirculated ones are very popular with collectors,” Lange said.