What U.S. coin can claim these firsts?
- The first circulating coin to depict an actual woman instead
of an allegorical representation.
- First circulating coin to
bear a non-circular rim device.
- First circulating dollar
coin to bear the "P" Mint mark and only the second
denomination to bear the "P" Mint mark.
dollar coin struck strictly in a non-precious metal alloy.
The "firsts" are only accorded the Susan B. Anthony
dollar. It's amazing that a coin that incurred so much scorn could
still be such a trendsetter in its own way.
COIN VALUES: See how much Susan B. Anthony dollar coins are
A serious discussion of a smaller-sized dollar coin began after a
September 1976 study was released by the U.S. Mint. The year-long
study, conducted by Research Triangle Institute of North Carolina,
focused on U.S. coinage system requirements through 1990. The RTI
recommended that cent production be halted by 1980, the dollar coin be
downsized and the half dollar be eliminated.
At the same time, the Treasury released a study titled "A New
Small Dollar Coin - Technical Considerations." That study
recommended the new dollar be the same composition as the quarter
dollar - 75 percent copper, 25 percent nickel bonded to a copper core,
and that it be round.
The new dollar was recommended to be 26.54 millimeters in diameter
(a quarter dollar is 24.3mm), weigh 8 grams, be 2.03mm thick, and have
a distinctive security edge so it could be distinguished from slugs
and other coins.
Frank Gasparro was the U.S. Mint's chief engraver when the Anthony
dollar was authorized. When discussion of a smaller-sized dollar coin
came about, Gasparro hoped he would get the opportunity to create a
classic design. He prepared sketches and models for an obverse
featuring Liberty with flowing hair and pole and Phrygian cap behind
her head, similar to the portrait on the Liberty Cap half cent and
cent of 1793. Gasparro's proposed reverse design featured an eagle
flying over a mountain, 13 stars and the sun's rays.
Meanwhile, a contingent in Congress was leaning toward placing
feminist Susan B. Anthony's portrait on the coin. Many collectors
lobbied against the Anthony proposal in favor of a more traditional,
Ultimately, both of Gasparro's original submissions were rejected in
favor of a portrait of the suffragist who led the fight that
eventually won women the right to vote. The reverse would be the same
one Gasparro created for the reverse of the Eisenhower dollar – an
adaptation of the Apollo 11 insignia patch designed by astronaut
Michael Collins - called "Eagle Landing on the Moon."
Gasparro's initial Anthony portrait was based on photographs
provided by her nephews and it reflected a younger-looking Anthony.
Design changes, requested by other Anthony relatives, produced a
portrait of a much older woman and that's the design that came off the
coin press at the Philadelphia Mint during first-strike ceremonies
Dec. 13, 1978.
Despite Treasury hopes of saving money – $30 million a year was
projected by reducing the demand for the $1 Federal Reserve note – the
Anthony dollar never caught on with the public, which claimed the coin
was too similar in size to the quarter dollar. A total of 857.2
million were struck for circulation during its first two years of
issue – 1979 and 1980. Anthony dollars were struck at the Philadelphia
and Denver Mints in Uncirculated condition and in both Uncirculated
and Proof versions at the San Francisco Mint. Anthony dollars produced
in 1981 were struck exclusively for collector sale and none were
placed into circulation.
The vending industry, which had supported the change in size but
fought against a more distinctive multi-edged coin, never fully
converted vending machines to accept the new, smaller dollar. The
coins were produced for circulation and collectors' sets in 1979 and
1980, and only for collectors in 1981. In the fall of 1985 the Mint
began offering Anthony dollar sets through its catalog of products.
The response surprised many, as the Anthony dollars were among the
most popular items in the catalog.
In an effort to decrease the government's inventory of some 360
million SBA dollars, the U.S. Postal Service installed 9,000 vending
machines to dispense Anthony dollars in change in 1993. Although USPS
officials were not sure if the program would succeed, it contributed
to a drawdown on Anthony dollars in Federal Reserve and Mint vaults
and as of February 1996 the total left in inventory was 229.5 million
coins. The dollar coin drawn down accelerated due to the needs of
commerce. It had become a convenient coin to use in the nation's
transit systems and vending machines. Even though a new dollar coin
had been authorized for 2000, it became obvious by late 1998 that in
order to meet demand and bridge the gap from the depletion of the
existing Anthony dollar coins it would be necessary to strike 1999
Anthony dollars. The go-ahead was given in June to begin striking 1999
Anthony dollars at both the Philadelphia and Denver Mints in early
fall. The dollars from that production began entering circulation in
late November. The Philadelphia Mint struck 29,592,000 and the Denver
Mint struck 11,776,000 Anthony dollars for circulation. Collectors
also benefited by being offered single Proof versions of the 1999
Anthony dollar struck at Philadelphia and two-coin Uncirculated sets
of Anthony dollars from Denver and Philadelphia. The Proof 1999-P
mintage was 749,090.
Several varieties are recognized, including two for the 1979-S: the
Filled S and the Clear S Mint mark.
During 1979 Mint engravers began using a new, much clearer S Mint
mark punch to replace the old, blobbish S Mint mark in use. The
old-style S has straight sides, and was used on both circulated and
Proof Anthony dollars. A much clearer S was introduced on both Proof
and Uncirculated strikes later that same year. In 1981 the S Mint mark
introduced in 1979 was replaced with an even clearer Open S Mint mark.
The Wide Rim variety of 1979-P Anthony dollars (with the 11-sided
rim being wider than the standard, Narrow Rim coins) was once
considered scarce, but as more coins were released from inventory that
proved not to be true.
Keep reading from our "Know Your U.S. Coins" series:
Cents and half cents:
2- and 3-cent coins:
Dimes and half dimes: