Dollar coins in general did not actively circulate in this country. Even the large silver “cartwheels” tended to have more value as bullion than they did as a means of commerce. Except for western and some southern states, where the coins saw use in day-to-day business, silver dollars rarely left bank vaults except when requested for use as gifts or prizes. The last silver dollars for general circulation were minted in 1935, with the denomination resurrected in 1971 in the form of the Eisenhower dollar, which in turn was replaced by the Susan B. Anthony dollar in 1979. The latter coin marked a change in the physical size of the dollar, no longer Morgan-dollar sized, but reduced to the approximate size of the quarter. “Susies” were produced for only four years, continuously through 1981, and then again in 1999. In contrast to the general public, who soundly rejected the concept, Congress nonetheless remained enamored of the dollar coin, initiating a process for minting new dollars by passing the United States Dollar Coin Act of 1997. This act seems to have prompted the last issue of the Susan B. Anthony dollars because of concern that with promotion of a new dollar coin, demand would increase to the point that a shortage would occur before those new dollars were minted.
Goodacre Presentation Finish – Photos used with permission and courtesy of Heritage Auction Galleries
To avoid confusing the new dollar with quarters, one of the reasons the Anthony dollar was unpopular, the law specified that the new dollar coin be designed so as not to look like a quarter. Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin created a Dollar Coin Design Advisory Committee to evaluate design concepts, specifying that the new dollar represent one or more women, though not any living person. In June, 1998, the committee recommended that the obverse represent Sacagawea, a Native American Shoshone woman who was interpreter and guide to Meriwether Lewis and William Clark on their exploratory trek to the Pacific Ocean. Artist Glenna Goodacre created the obverse design, showing Sacagawea (in three-quarter profile) carrying her infant son Jean Baptiste on her back. Though no portrait of Sacagawea is known, Goodacre used as a living model Randy’L Teton, a modern woman from the same tribe. The reverse was designed by U.S. Mint Sculptor/ Engraver Thomas D. Rogers Sr. Apparently deciding that the reason the Susan B. Anthony dollar failed to circulate was inadequate marketing, the U.S. Mint made a concerted effort to persuade the public of the usefulness of the new coins.
Along with extensive television commercials, print ads, and convention presentations, the Mint collaborated with retail giant Walmart, who took the initial delivery of the coins to use as change from store purchases. General Mills placed one of 5,500 Sacagawea dollars in every 2,000th box of Cheerios. In spite of these efforts, this dollar coin like its recent predecessors failed to circulate. Even the marketing went slightly askew; use of the phrase “golden dollar” by the Mint caused some to believe the coins actually contained gold, not realizing the expression referred only to the color of the manganese-brass outside layers. Interestingly, 39 22-karat gold Sacagawea dollars actually were struck at West Point in 1999 (though dated 2000), but were not for circulation. Twelve of the real gold dollars went to space on the shuttle Columbia in July, 1999, and after returning to earth were placed in Fort Knox; the rest were melted. Mintage of circulating dollars dropped significantly in 2002, from which point forward the coins have been produced primarily for collectors. Starting in 2009, by decree of the 2009 Native American $1 Coin Act, Sacagawea dollars will have yearly changes of the reverse design to honor other Native Americans, and new edge markings. Though the Mint began producing Presidential dollar coins in 2007, the Native American Coin Act also mandates that twenty percent of the total dollar coin mintage in any year be Sacagawea dollars.
The obverse features a centered portrait of Sacagawea, body oriented away from the coin but head turned back to the right to face the viewer. Dressed in native clothes, she carries on her back her sleeping infant son. LIBERTY is at the top, concentric with a wide flat rim, IN GOD WE TRUST in two lines is to the left of the portrait, and the date is at the lower right of the portrait (the date was moved to the edge starting in 2009). Sacagawea dollar were minted in Philadelphia and Denver for circulation, and San Francisco for proofs; P, D, and S mintmarks are centered below the date. The designer’s initials, GG, are located on the lower part of the folded cloth wrapped around the infant. Through 2008 the reverse features a centered flying eagle, surrounded by a circle of 17 small five-point stars (representing the number of states at the time of the Lewis and Clark expedition), separated into three groups by the eagle’s wing tips and tail feathers. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA at the top and ONE DOLLAR at the bottom arc just inside the flat rim. E PLURIBUS UNUM is above and to the left of the eagle, and the designer’s initial TDR are just to the right of the last R in DOLLAR. The reverse design and text were changed starting in 2009, with designs that represent Native American contributions to the history of the United States. Sacagawea dollars from 2000 through 2008 have a plain edge; starting in 2009 the year of minting, mintmark, E PLURIBUS UNUM and IN GOD WE TRUST were moved to the edge.
Business strike Sacagawea dollars are considered common, with most of the thousands of certified examples graded as MS64 and finer. Many prooflike examples have been identified. Prices are very modest through MS67, with some pieces expensive to very expensive as MS68 and finer. The Goodacre Presentation pieces are modestly priced to MS67, expensive finer. The most expensive examples are the 2000-P “Cheerios” pieces, expensive as MS63 to very expensive as MS67 and finer. Thousands of proof Sacagawea dollars have been certified, some as Cameo but most as Deep Cameo. Prices are modest even as PR70, though 2001 and 2002 issues are slightly more expensive. The 2000-S PR70 pieces are the most expensive.
Designer: Glenna Goodacre, obverse; Thomas D. Rogers Sr., reverse
Circulation Mintage: ongoing; declining from a high of 767,140,000, 2000-P, to about 2 million to 4 million per year thereafter
Proof Mintage: ongoing; generally about 2 million to 4 million per year
Diameter: 26.5 mm, plain edge; starting in 2009, edge with year of minting, mintmark, E PLURIBUS UNUM and IN GOD WE TRUST
Metal Content: Outer layers of 77% copper, 12% zinc, 7% manganese, and 4% nickel (manganese-brass); inner core is pure copper
Weight: 8.1 grams
Varieties: A few known, including 2000-P Goodacre Presentation Finish (Sculptor Goodacre was paid with a group of 5,000 of the coins with a special finish); 2000-P Boldly Detailed Tail Feathers (also called the “Cheerios” Dollar, though it is uncertain whether all dollars inserted into Cheerios boxes are of this style); “muled” pieces with a Washington quarter obverse and Sacagawea dollar reverse; and other minor die variations.
Coin Encyclopedia: www.ngccoin.com
United States Small Size Dollar Coins: www.smalldollars.com
The Official Red Book: A Guide Book of United States Coins. R.S Yeoman (author), Kenneth Bressett (editor). Whitman Publishing.
A Guide Book of United States Type Coins. Q. David Bowers. Whitman Publishing.
United States Coinage: A Study by Type. Ron Guth and Jeff Garrett. Whitman Publishing.
The Experts Guide to Collecting & Investing in Rare Coins. Q. David Bowers. Whitman Publishing.