The Sacagawea dollar (also known as the "golden dollar") is a United States dollar coin first minted in 2000, although not released for general circulation from 2002 to 2008 and again from 2012 onward due to its general unpopularity with the public and low business demand for the coin. These coins have a copper core clad by manganese brass, giving them a distinctive golden color. The coin features an obverse by Glenna Goodacre. From 2000 to 2008, the reverse featured an eagle design by Thomas D. Rogers. Since 2009, the reverse of the Sacagawea dollar has been changed yearly, with each design in the series depicting a different aspect of Native American cultures.
|Value||1.00 United States dollar|
|Mass||8.100 g (0.26 troy oz)|
|Diameter||26.49 mm (1.043 in)|
|Thickness||2.00 mm (0.079 in)|
|Composition||Core: 100% Cu|
Cladding: 77% Cu, 12% Zn, 7% Mn, 4% Ni
Overall: 88.5% Cu, 6% Zn, 3.5% Mn, 2% Ni
|Years of minting||2000–2001 (circulation)|
2002–2008 (collectors only)
2012–present (collectors only)
|Mint marks||P (Philadelphia)|
S (San Francisco)
W (West Point, special strikings only)
|Design||Profile of Sacagawea with her child, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau|
|Design date||2000, modified 2009|
|Design||Mary G. Ross and American Indians in the Space Program|
The coin was introduced as a replacement for the Susan B. Anthony dollar, which proved useful for vending machine operators and mass transit systems despite being unpopular with the public. The Statue of Liberty was originally proposed as the design subject, but Sacagawea, the Shoshone guide of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, was eventually chosen.
The new dollar coin was heavily marketed by the Mint in a series of print, radio, and television advertisements, as well as Mint partnerships with Walmart and Cheerios. However, the Sacagawea dollar did not prove popular with the public, and mintage dropped sharply in the second year of production. Production of Sacagawea dollars continued, from 2007 to 2016 in parallel with the U.S. Presidential dollars. In 2012, mintage numbers were reduced by over 90%, in line with a similar reduction for the even more unpopular Presidential Dollars, due to large stockpiles of unused coins from that series.
The Mint planned to issue the Sacagawea design in 22-karat gold as well, but this idea was quickly abandoned after the Mint's authority to strike the coins was questioned, and the Mint has retained ownership of the few such coins produced. Soon after initial production of the dollar, it was noticed that a few of the dollar coins were erroneously struck with the obverse of a state quarter and the normal reverse.
Due to the limited circulation of the cumbersome Eisenhower dollar, it was decided in 1977 that a smaller dollar coin might see improved circulation and prove more useful to the public. On September 26, 1978, Congress approved legislation to provide for a smaller dollar coin to be minted, which would depict Susan B. Anthony, a prominent American suffragette. These new dollars also proved unpopular, due in large part to their similarity in size and metallic composition to the quarter-dollar. Since there was little interest in the coin as a circulating medium, most were placed in United States Mint and Federal Reserve vaults throughout the country, and mintage ceased after 1981.
Despite their initial lack of popularity, by the mid 1990s the Treasury's supply of Anthony dollars began to dwindle due to their widespread use in vending machines (including more than 9,000 stamp machines situated in post offices across the United States) and increasing usage in mass transit systems throughout the country.  Beginning in 1997, several bills were introduced to Congress with the intent of resuming mintage of small-sized dollar coins to keep up with demand. On March 20 of that year, Arizona Republican Representative Jim Kolbe introduced legislation calling for more dollar coins to be minted. Four months later, on July 24, Republican Representative Michael Castle of Delaware, a member of the House Subcommittee on Domestic and International Monetary Policy, also introduced legislation, calling for the Statue of Liberty to be the subject of the design. On October 21, Minnesota Republican Rod Grams introduced a bill in the Senate, also calling for the mintage of a newly designed dollar coin. The final legislation authorizing the design and production of a new dollar coin was based on Grams' bill. Also on October 21, in a hearing before the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Domestic and International Monetary Policy, Trade, and Technology, Treasury Department officials gave their support for a new dollar coin, recommending that it be gold-colored with a distinctive edge, to make it easily distinguishable from the quarter-dollar. During this hearing, Philip N. Diehl, then Director of the Mint, estimated that it would take thirty months to begin production of the new coin.
The United States Senate approved the necessary legislation on November 9, 1997, and the House of Representatives did the same on November 13. On December 1 President Bill Clinton signed the 50 States Commemorative Coin Program Act, which became Public Law 105-124. Section four of the act, which is entitled "United States $1 Coin Act of 1997", provided for a new dollar coin to be struck, stating in part: "The dollar coin shall be golden in color, have a distinctive edge, have tactile and visual features that make the denomination of the coin readily discernible". The act also gave authority to the Secretary of the Treasury to resume production of the Susan B. Anthony dollar to fill the demand for dollar coins until production could begin on the newly designed golden dollar. In total, more than 41 million Susan B. Anthony dollars were struck bearing the date 1999.
Though the United States $1 Coin Act of 1997 required a change in composition and edge, it did not dictate what was to appear on the coin. To determine this, Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin appointed a nine-member Dollar Coin Design Advisory Committee. Rubin, who had the authority to select the coin's design as Secretary of the Treasury, specified that the coin should depict a representation of one or more women and could not depict a living person. The committee was chaired by Philip N. Diehl, a role that did not include a vote on the designs. They met in Philadelphia in June 1998, listening to seventeen concepts submitted by members of the public, and reviewing many more suggestions received by telephone, mail and email. On June 9, 1998, the committee recommended Sacagawea, the Shoshone guide of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, for the design of the new coin. Despite the committee's choice of Sacagawea, Castle advocated that the Statue of Liberty be depicted, as per his earlier legislation. In a letter to the House of Representatives, Castle explained his objection, stating that the "goal in creating a new dollar coin is to make it more distinctive with a popular design that would encourage its wider use by the public." Between November 18 and 22, 1998, the General Accounting Office conducted a poll on behalf of Castle. The object of the poll was to determine which design the public would find more desirable. In total, 65 percent preferred the Statue of Liberty, 27 percent preferred Sacagawea, two percent believed that either was acceptable, three percent said neither was acceptable, and an additional three percent had no opinion. Despite Castle's objection, Sacagawea was ultimately chosen as the subject of the coin.
Initial design selectionEdit
Invitations were sent to 23 artists with guidelines as to what their designs should depict. The obverse was to depict a representation of Sacagawea, and the reverse an eagle symbolizing peace and freedom. Another guideline requested artists "be sensitive to cultural authenticity, and try to avoid creating a representation of a classical European face in Native American headdress." In November and December 1998, members of the Native American community, teachers, numismatists, historians, members of Congress, various government officials and others were invited by the United States Mint to review the submitted proposed designs. Six obverse and seven reverse designs were originally selected for further consideration.
After the Mint conducted a series of polls and focus groups, three obverse and four reverse designs were selected as finalists. The Mint received approximately 90,000 e-mails in reference to the design selection process. In response to the large amount of feedback generated, Diehl stated that the internet has "allowed us to conduct a public outreach program of unprecedented scope to measure opinions of the designs." All seven of the selected designs were forwarded to the United States Commission of Fine Arts; the Commission chose an obverse design depicting Sacagawea with her infant son, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, as designed by sculptor Glenna Goodacre. Goodacre chose Randy'L He-dow Teton to model for Sacagawea, of whom there are no known contemporary portraits, to help the artist capture the features of a young Native American woman. The depiction of infant Jean Baptiste Charbonneau was partially modeled after one-year-old Adam Scholz, with assistance from his father, Peter Scholz. The chosen reverse, designed by Mint sculptor-engraver Thomas D. Rogers, depicted a soaring eagle.
Native American redesignEdit
On September 20, 2007, Pub.L. 110–82, known as the Native American $1 Coin Act, was signed by president George W. Bush. The act specified in part that the one dollar coin shall depict "images celebrating the important contributions made by Indian tribes and individual Native Americans to the development of the United States and the history of the United States." The act also called for the removal of the date from the obverse and "E PLURIBUS UNUM" from the reverse of the coin, opting instead to add them to the edge. At this time the mintmark was also moved to the edge.
The program requires that the reverse of the dollar depict a new design every year. In order to determine which design to depict on the coins, officials from the United States Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, the Native American Caucus and the National Congress of American Indians, the consulting organizations for the program, appoint a liaison to the United States Mint. Between twelve and fifteen themes are selected after consultation with the National Museum of the American Indian and the Smithsonian Institution. At this point, the consulting organizations supply the Mint with written comments regarding the themes. The suggestions are then sent to the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee, where a theme is recommended. After reviewing the recommendations and input from the contributing organizations, the selected theme is finalized, at which point designs are produced that represent the theme. Once designs are created, the consulting organizations and the National Museum of the Native American are consulted, and the designs are sent to the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee for approval. Based on all comments and recommendations received, the Mint selects a final design that is recommended to the Secretary of the Treasury for approval.
The first coin in the Native American series, issued in 2009, was designed by Mint sculptor-engraver Norman E. Nemeth, the subject being the spread of Three Sisters Agriculture. It depicts a Native American woman planting seeds in a field populated with corn, beans and squash. Above the woman is the inscription "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA", and below is "$1".
The design selected for the 2010 reverse was designed by Artistic Infusion Program artist Thomas Cleveland and depicts the Hiawatha belt surrounding five stone-tipped arrows, along with the inscriptions "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA", "$1", "HAUDENOSAUNEE" and "GREAT LAW OF PEACE". The subject of the design is the "Great Tree of Peace".
The reverse of the 2011 dollar depicts the hands of the Supreme Sachem Ousamequin and Plymouth Colony Governor John Carver holding a ceremonial pipe, along with the inscriptions "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA", "$1", and "WAMPANOAG TREATY 1621". The coin was designed by Artistic Infusion Program artist Richard Masters and engraved by Mint sculptor–engraver Joseph Menna. The design subject is treaties with tribal nations.
The theme for the reverse of the 2012 dollar is "Trade Routes of the 17th Century" and the design depicts the profile of a Native American man and a horse in the foreground and a group of galloping horses in the background. This reverse design was created by Thomas Cleveland as part of the Artistic Infusion Program and engraved by Mint sculptor–engraver Phebe Hemphill.
The 2013 dollar commemorates the Treaty with the Lenape in 1778, the first formal treaty between the United States and a Native American tribe. The coin depicts a turkey, a howling wolf, and a turtle—symbols of the Lenape. Its design was created by Susan Gamble as part of the Artistic Infusion Program, and engraved by Phebe Hemphill.
The 2014 dollar depicts a Native American man clasping a ceremonial pipe while his wife holds a plate of provisions, including fish, corn, roots and gourds. In the background is the stylized image of the face of William Clark's compass, displaying "NW" for "northwest." It bears the inscriptions "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" and "$1", as required by law.
The reverse design of the 2015 dollar depicts Mohawk ironworkers. According to the U.S. Mint, the coin commemorates Kahnawake and Akwesasne Mohawk ironworkers who contributed to the building of New York City skyscrapers. The inscriptions on the reverse read "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA", "$1" and "MOHAWK IRONWORKERS." It was designed by artist Ronald D. Sanders.
According to an August 29, 2014, U.S. Mint press release, the design selected for use on the 2016 coins commemorates Code talkers from World Wars I and II. Designed by Thomas D. Rogers, it includes the inscriptions "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, "$1", "WWI" and "WWII" and depicts two helmets used by American fighting forces in the 20th century — the Brodie helmet of World War I, and the M1 helmet of World War II — along with two feathers which combine to form a V, "symbolizing victory, unity, and the important role that these code talkers played."
Production and releaseEdit
After her obverse design was approved, Goodacre visited the Philadelphia Mint engraving department six times in order to finalize the designs. Rogers' reverse design was also modified before production began. In his original proposal, mountainous scenery was depicted beneath the flying eagle; this was removed and the positions of other reverse design features were altered before Rubin gave final approval. The composition selected for the new coin included a cladding of manganese brass (containing about 77% copper, 12% zinc, 7% manganese, and 4% nickel) over a pure copper core. This composition was chosen because it would give the coin a distinctive golden color while being electromagnetically identical to its predecessor, the copper-nickel Susan B. Anthony dollar. The first official striking of the Sacagawea dollar took place on November 18, 1999, during a ceremony in which dignitaries and other invited guests each struck individual examples of the coins. Because the coins were struck before 2000, it was not legal to release them during the first strike ceremonies. Instead, the coins were saved and later sent to the dignitaries who struck them. Full-scale production began shortly after the ceremonial strikings.
For her work creating the obverse of the Sacagawea dollar, Goodacre received a $5,000 commission; she requested that it be paid in dollar coins. The 2000-P dollars paid to Goodacre were struck on specially burnished blanks to give them a finish unique to that striking. Diehl and other Mint dignitaries personally delivered the coins to Goodacre on April 5, 2000. A similar specially burnished finish was used on the 75,000 2000-D dollars included in the Millennium Coin & Currency sets. Soon after release of the new coins, it was discovered that they tarnished quickly once in circulation. In April 2001 the Mint began testing an experimental rinse that would inhibit the tarnishing; however, the rinse was used only in that year.
The act authorizing the dollar coin also provided for the Secretary of the Treasury to "adopt a program to promote the use of such coins by commercial enterprises, mass transit authorities, and Federal, State, and local government agencies." The Mint's initial advertising campaign, consisting of an estimated 1,600 television, radio and print advertisements and partnerships with the national retail chain Wal-Mart and the General Mills company, cost approximately $41 million. The television ads consisted of the head of George Washington superimposed upon a body, voiced by actor Michael Keaton, discussing the merits of the new dollar coin.
Beginning in January 2000, the Mint began sending dollar coins to Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores across the United States in order to help promote and circulate the coins. In total, $100 million worth of the dollars were shipped to the stores as part of the promotion. Some store owners criticized the Mint's partnership with Wal-Mart and Sam's Club as being unfair to smaller retailers. In response, Diehl noted that "every retailer and commercial establishment has the right to carry the Golden Dollar. The Mint's agreement with Wal-Mart is designed to encourage all retailers and commercial businesses in the nation to use the new Golden Dollar in everyday transactions."
During this time, the Mint began a partnership with the General Mills company, in which 10,000,000 boxes of Cheerios cereal would contain a 2000-dated Lincoln cent as a prize, one in every 2,000 boxes would contain a new Sacagawea dollar and one in every 4,400 would hold a certificate redeemable for 100 Sacagawea dollars. It was later discovered that the dollars included in every 2,000 boxes were in fact early strikes, differing from those ultimately issued for circulation by the number of tail feathers on the eagle. Approximately 5,500 of the coins were included in the boxes of cereal. Far less of these dollars are known, since many may have been spent. Later analysis also showed that an unknown number of them had the normal "Reverse of 2000" rather than what collectors called the enhanced tail feathers "Reverse of 1999". Thus the fact that a coin came from the cereal box does not guarantee that it is the rare variety.
In 1999, the Mint struck a number of Sacagawea dollars in .9167 fine (22-karat) gold. During the initial production of the coins, they were denominated at five dollars in order to help the public distinguish them from their circulating counterparts. The plan was to sell gold versions of the coins to collectors. On March 20, this plan was halted when some Congressmen questioned the authority of Mint officials to strike the coins in a composition different from what had already been authorized. Full-scale coin production never took place even though the Mint maintained that it did have authority to do so, as the coins would be considered numismatic items and not regular-issue coins. Similar gold coins were also struck, this time bearing the denomination of one dollar and a "W" mint mark, signifying that the coins were struck at the West Point Mint. In total, 39 such coins were struck, twelve of which were found to be of adequate quality, while the rest were eventually destroyed. Unlike those denominated at five dollars, the one dollar pieces were "struck to commemorate the historic flight of the Space Shuttle Columbia in July 1999", according to Former Mint Director Ed Moy. The twelve surviving gold dollars were sent into space aboard Columbia on mission STS-93 in July 1999. Following the return of the shuttle, the coins were placed in storage at Fort Knox, where they remained until 2007, when they were exhibited at the American Numismatic Association World's Fair of Money in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. After the event, the coins were returned to Fort Knox; however, the Mint is currently planning to loan the coins to various museums throughout the country.
In May 2000, an error coin bearing the George Washington obverse design of a U.S. state quarter and the eagle reverse of a Sacagawea dollar was discovered in a roll of dollar coins purchased from a bank in Mountain Home, Arkansas. The undated coin, known as a double-denomination mule, was the first of eleven discovered and authenticated. Mint officials estimate that the coins, which bear the 'P' mint mark for Philadelphia, were struck from late April to early May 2000. They were produced on dollar-coin planchets clad with manganese bronze, not quarter planchets with copper-nickel cladding.
Following the initial discovery, a bin containing several thousand of the error coins was impounded at the Philadelphia Mint, and all such coins within it were ordered melted. Some of the coins that had been released were eventually tracked back to a coin-wrapping facility near Philadelphia. Employees at the wrapping facility were instructed to watch for any of the coins; those discovered were turned over to the Mint.
A subsequent federal investigation into the incident found that the error coins had been struck accidentally, but two former Mint employees were guilty of selling some of the dollars, resulting in imprisonment and fines for both individuals. In 2002, Mint officials announced that two of the ten coins then reported had entered circulation through legal channels, but the other eight were of dubious origins and might be seized. However, as of 2011, the federal government has not attempted to seize the eight examples considered of dubious origin.
As of August 2011, eight of the eleven error coins, including the one initially discovered in Arkansas, are owned by a New Mexico collector who purchased them between 2000 and 2003, paying as high as $75,000 for a single specimen. Of the other three documented mules, one is owned by its discoverer, a Missouri collector, another was purchased by an unnamed collector, and the third, first reported in 2011, was purchased in 2011 by a Chicago dealer from an individual who had owned the coin for about ten years. Sale prices as high as $200,000 have been reported. Three different die combinations have been identified among the eleven available error coins.
The coin received mixed reviews from the nation's senators. In an interview with Associated Press columnist Suzanne Gamboa, Republican Senator Phil Gramm of Texas described United States currency as "crummy". Gramm, who was one of the senators who voted for the bill containing the legislation that authorized it, praised the design of the Sacagawea dollar as being an improvement over the other coin designs then in production. Despite his praise of the design, Gramm condemned the Mint's approach to marketing the coin, stating that if the United States Mint were the Franklin Mint, they would be "sued for deceptive advertisement." He also noted his belief that the Mint had repeated the earlier mistakes of the Susan B. Anthony dollar by issuing a coin that was tailored to the requests of the vending machine industry rather than the average consumer. Texas Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison criticized both the Sacagawea design as well the coin's size in relation to the other coins in circulation at the time. Hutchison felt that the new coin lacked the necessary heft to easily distinguish it from the lower denominations, and that the dollar, as well as the other coins and currency then in circulation "looks like play money." Senators Mike DeWine of Ohio and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, Republican and Democrat respectively, praised the design and the distinctiveness of the golden color.
The series proved unpopular in everyday commerce. Mintage dropped by 90% the following year. From 2002 through 2008, Sacagawea dollars were only struck for sale to collectors. The Federal Reserve Bank ordered none of the Native American series after their issuance beginning in 2009. In December 2009, it was noted by a Federal Reserve official that there were currently 857,000,000-dollar coins (including Presidential dollars) in government storage vaults, an amount estimated to satisfy the demand for twelve years.
|Year||Philadelphia mintage||Denver mintage||San Francisco mintage||Total minted|
Special finish setsEdit
Besides the annual proof and uncirculated sets, Sacagawea dollars with special finishes have also been inserted into several mint packages. These include the following:
|Year and Mint||Product||Mintage|
|2000-D||Millennium Coinage & Currency Set with special Burnished finish||75,000|
|2014-D||Coin and Currency Set with Enhanced Uncirculated finish||50,000|
|2015-W||Coin and Currency Set with Enhanced Uncirculated finish||90,000|
|2016-S||Coin and Currency Set with Enhanced Uncirculated finish||75,000|
|2017-S||Enhanced Uncirculated Mint set||225,000|
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Susan B. Anthony dollar
| Dollar coin of the United States