The working prototype 1971-S Eisenhower Dollars are one of the most interesting and important discoveries in numismatics in recent years, being part of the process of bringing the design to production, and for being released to collectors. There are just 3 specimens known, comprising 2 die pairs or varieties, so it is natural to wonder which die variety was first.
Typically, the varieties are listed in the order of discovery with the Lydston specimen being discovered before the Chatham specimen, however, there is a case to be made for listing the Chatham specimen first as it appears to have been struck earlier in the process.
The three specimens are typically presented in the order of discovery, which can also be seen from the Ike Group die marriage and variety designations, however, listing the Chatham specimen first we have:
|Specimen||Discovery||Ike Group Designation||PCGS Cert|
|Lee C. Lydston||2008||DMR-038/DDO-023/ODV-010/RDV-007||37150154|
Information supporting the case for the Chatham specimen being an earlier work includes both design and production work, specifically:
- The design of the serifs in the letter "R" of LIBERTY is closer to that of the original galvanos in the Chatham specimen
- The workmanship is a bit cruder showing less finishing work in the Chatham specimen
The material here draws on the research and conclusions of many people including Steve Palladino, Rob Ezerman, Charles Chatham, Lee Lydston, Heritage Auctions, and others.
Design Examination of the Serif on the "R" in LIBERTY on the Galvano and Prototype Specimens
Three items stand out when examining the "R" in LIBERTY.
- The R has pronounced serifs and the slanted foot of the R has a more pronounced curve which is much more similar to that of the galvano.
This is noted by Steve Palladino, member of the Ike Group:
"The "R" in the Chatham Variety (ODV-011) is distinct from Lydston Variety (ODV-010) and more similar to the Galvano in that the serifs are more pronounced and that the foot of the slanted R curves upwards more."
- The reliefs of the coins are different as noted by James Wiles in "The Eisenhower Dollar Die Variety Book". James Wiles indicates that ODV-011 is "Extra High Relief" while ODV-010 is "Mixed Relief".
- The Lydston Variety's straight leg is almost a "peg leg" as noted by Rob Ezerman. The thought behind production "peg leg" Eisenhower Dollars is that these are the result of die polishing and not a separate intended design.
Visual Examination of the Serif on the "R" in Liberty
Images of the "R" in the original galvano, 3 specimen prototype Eisenhower dollars, along with two production 1971-S proof images for ODV-004 and ODV-006 are shown below to show the progression.
The production "peg leg" variety (ODV-006) photo shows continued progression of the "peg leg" die characteristic from the Lydston prototype variety to production while the production "funny foot" variety (ODV-004) photo shows what appears to be an effort to add the serif back after it had been worn off.
The Galvano photo is courtesy of Heritage Auctions and the Eisenhower dollar photos are courtesy of PCGS.
Production Examination of the Machining Marks on the Chatham Specimen
From a production perspective, the Chatham specimen also exhibits a roughness not found in the other prototype or production Eisenhower dollars.
Heritage Auctions indicates that these are from the cutting burr of the Janvier reduction lathe before the dies are finished:
"It is worth noting that the obverse of the Chatham prototype has a rougher finish than the other prototypes, with much residual roughness and saw-tooth machining marks on the devices, caused by the cutting burr of the Janvier reduction lathe (see image below).
This is exactly the kind of finish one would expect if the coin was struck from one of the unfinished dies described in the Mint's January 25, 1971 press release.
The surfaces of the prototype were "shot finished", a technique similar to sandblasting, but using small steel shot instead of sand (see the image of the G in the designer's initials below).
The second S in STATES also shows the remnants of machining and an irregularity at the bottom, suggesting the coin was produced early in the design development process (see image below)."
Visual Examination of the Machining Marks on the Chatham Specimen
A photo of of the machining marks is available courtesy of Charles Chatham and published by Rob Ezerman in "The Eisenhower Dollar: The Lydston and Chatham 1971-S Prototype Ikes" as shown below.
With the examination of the design and production aspects of the Chatham and Lydston specimens and varieties, we can conclude that the Chatham specimen appears to have a design that is closer to that of the Galvano and that it was produced with unfinished dies. From these observations, it may be that the Chatham coin was created first, before the Lydston and eBay specimens.
With this ordering, we can refer to the Chatham variety (DMR-039) as the "First Prototype" variety and the Lydston variety (DMR-038) as the "Second Prototype" variety.
In 2022, Heritage Auctions presented the Lydston prototype in the following manner with an ordering that did not include the Chatham variety.
Adding the Chatham "First Prototype" variety, we can now look at the development of the Eisenhower dollar in the following manner.
Of note, the image used by Heritage indicated that the "Lydston-Frohman Discovery Prototype" is unique, which has been updated to list 2 known specimens.
With this perspective, the Chatham specimen should be a highly regarded coin in that it is both unique and is likely the first prototype struck of the known prototype specimens, thus potentially the most valuable of the three known examples.
The following sources were used in writing this article:
- Ezerman, Rob, et al. "The Eisenhower Dollar: The Lydston and Chatham 1971-S Prototype Ikes". The Ike Group. https://www.ikegroup.info/chapter34/chapter34.pdf. Accessed 5 January 2023.
- Wiles, James. "The Eisenhower Dollar Die Variety Book". Variety Vista. 2020. http://varietyvista.com/13 Eisenhower Dollars/Obverse Design Varieties.htm. Accessed 5 January 2023.
- Heritage Auctions. "1971-S $1 Prototype Strike, DMR-039/ODV-011/RDV-007 SP67 PCGS ... Only Specimen With This Obverse". https://coins.ha.com/itm/-/a/1356-3807.s. Accessed 5 January 2023.
- Heritage Auctions. "1971-S $1 Eisenhower Dollar Prototype, Specimen 67 PCGS. R.8 ... The Unique Discovery Coin". 14 January 2022, https://coins.ha.com/itm/-/a/1341-4650.s. Accessed 5 January 2023.
- McMorrow-Hernandez, Joshua. "Two Unique Prototype Eisenhower Dollars Certified By PCGS". PCGS. January 13, 2020. https://www.pcgs.com/news/two-unique-prototype-eisenhower-dollars-certified-by-pcgs. Accessed 5 January 2023.
- Bureau of the Mint. "Trial Strike of the Eisenhower Dollar". The Department of the Treasury. January 25, 1971. https://www.usmint.gov/learn/history/historical-documents/trial-strike-of-eisenhower-dollar. Accessed 5 January 2023.