The Joys of Collecting column from the Jan. 25, 2016, Weekly issue of Coin World:
Anthony dollars dated 1979 were minted starting in late 1978. By the official launch date on July 2, 1979, several hundred million had been struck in anticipation of public demand. By the end of the year the total from the Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco Mints was 757 million.
Circulation at a standstill
Although the new dollars were available at nearly all banks and at many post offices, they did not flow into circulation. It would take hundreds of millions of dollars to retrofit vending machines to accept the new coins, funds the Treasury Department did not have.
The matter was at a standstill, and only a few vending machines could use the coins. The largest useful coin of the realm remained the quarter dollar.
The numismatic community did its part. Many collectors set about getting the three Mint State issues of the year plus Proof 1979-S Anthony dollars.
Treasury a bit overoptimistic
In diametric opposition to what the numismatic community and press had observed, Under Secretary of the Treasury Bette B. Anderson included this remarkable commentary in Sept. 25, 1979, testimony to the Subcommittee on Consumer Affairs of the House Committee on Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs:
“The initial reaction of the general public to the new coin has been essentially what the Department, and indeed the congressional committees, had anticipated. ... A number of nationwide retailers and local stores in various areas, which realized the advantages of using the new coin in commercial transactions, promptly began using and promoting the acceptance of the coin. Many communities and citizens’ organizations have promoted use of the coin as well.
“At the same time we fully realized that there has been criticism of the new coin by many of our citizens. Perhaps the strongest objection we have heard is that, because of its size and color, the Anthony dollar coin can be mistaken for the quarter. During the past several months we have received suggestions for making the coin more distinct — there have been recommendations to increase the diameter, change the color or shape, or punch a hole in the middle of the coin.”