Within two years of introduction in 2000, it was evident the
Sacagawea dollar would suffer the same fate as its predecessor, the
Anthony dollar. Given a choice, the public would choose the $1 note
rather than a dollar coin.
Although studies suggested a dollar coin would save the government
up to $500 million per year due to replacement costs (the coin would
circulate up to 30 years and the paper equivalent would last between
14 and 18 months), practicality and habit still reigned. However, Rep.
Michael Castle, R-Del, was determined to find a way to obtain greater
circulation. He looked to the success of the 50 State quarter dollars
program and began advocating a redesign of the dollar coin. His idea
was bolstered by a national survey and study conducted by the
Government Accountability Office that indicated many Americans who did
not seek or who rejected the Sacagawea dollar for use in commerce
would actively seek a dollar coin if an attractive, educational
rotating design were to be struck on the coin.
In a bipartisan pact, Castle and Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y.,
introduced legislation Feb. 18, 2005, that sought to redesign the
Sacagawea dollar coin beginning in 2007 to feature images of U.S.
presidents on the obverse and the Statue of Liberty on the reverse.
However, the Sacagawea dollar had its constituency in Congress and a
compromise was forged that allowed the continued production of the
Sacagawea dollar for collector sales. The compromise legislation was
signed into law (PL 109-145) on Dec. 22, 2005, by President Bush.
Castle noted: "Just like the State quarter program that has been
so successful, the Presidential dollar coins bill is a win-win
proposition. The Presidential coins will teach history while
generating revenue for the U.S. Treasury. I am also very excited that
New York's most famous resident and most powerful symbol, Lady
Liberty, will grace the back of each coin."
COIN VALUES: See how much Presidential dollar coins are worth today
The Presidential $1 Coin Act of 2005 authorized the production of
Presidential dollars coins for circulation as well as the First Spouse
bullion coin program, which also included bronze medals. The
Presidential dollars, to be issued at the rate of four per year, were
specified to retain the same golden color and alloy of the Sacagawea
dollar. The obverse of each coin would feature the name and image of a
U.S. president, as well as dates of the term of office and a number
representing the order of service. The reverse would bear a likeness
of the Statue of Liberty extending to the rim of the coin, along with
the inscriptions of $1 and UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
The law also specified the movement of certain inscriptions and
other statutory requirements to the edges of the Presidential dollars:
E PLURIBUS UNUM, IN GOD WE TRUST, and the year of issue. Mint
officials elected to also place the Mint mark on the edge. The
reasoning behind moving these design elements to the edge was to allow
larger and more dramatic artwork on the coins reminiscent of the
so-called "Golden Age of Coinage" in the United States at
the beginning of the 20th century.
In reaction to error Presidential dollars produced during the first
year of issue without any inscriptions on the edge, amendments
embedded in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2007 directed the
U.S. Mint to move the motto IN GOD WE TRUST on Presidential dollars
from the edge to the coins' obverse or reverse "as soon as
practical." Because the 2008 designs were already in production
by the time the legislation was signed into law, the change became
effective in 2009. The motto was moved to the obverse on the left
under the portrait of the president.
Presidential dollars are to be issued in the order of service,
beginning with George Washington. However, the authorizing law
prohibits a coin being issued honoring a living former or current
president, or of any deceased former president during the two-year
period following the date of the death of that president. That mandate
would indicate a program extending through at least 2014. It
prescribes that only one design shall be issued for a period of
service for any president, no matter how many consecutive terms of
office the president served. However, if a president served during two
or more nonconsecutive periods of service, a coin shall be issued for
each such nonconsecutive period of service.
The authorizing law also specified that the director of the U.S.
Mint should take all reasonable steps to ensure the circulation and
public acceptance of the Presidential dollar coins, including periodic
reports to Congress on the efforts and progress of the program. It
also set forth provisions for the continued striking of Sacagawea
dollars on a percentage basis of the number of Presidential coins
struck. Upon the termination of the Presidential dollar coin program,
the law specified that production of dollar coins would revert to the
Keep reading from our "Know Your U.S. Coins" series:
Cents and half cents:
2- and 3-cent coins:
Dimes and half dimes: