High expectations for new coin issue in 1979: Q. David Bowers

Anthony dollars enter circulation
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Published : 12/31/16
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The Joys of Collecting column from the Jan. 18, 2016, issue of Coin World:

The Anthony dollar was conceived in 1977.

With great enthusiasm Chief Engraver Frank Gasparro created a traditional Liberty Cap design that Coin World readers, the Treasury Department, and others praised. Congress, which always has the final say, discarded such recommendations and mandated that suffragist Susan B. Anthony be depicted. Gasparro did an about face, studied portraits, and in 1979 created the dollars we know today.

Mint Director Stella B. Hackel sent out invitations for several ceremonies, including one to be held in the then San Francisco Assay Office on Feb. 2, 1979. Early the next morning I was among those on hand to see Proof dollars being made.

The ceremony was held at an early hour because Secretary of the Treasury W. Michael Blumenthal had to be in Los Angeles later in the day to give a speech.

After Director Hackel’s remarks, Blumenthal, speaking from prepared notes, then told of the new Anthony dollar and the government’s expectation for it.

It would, he said, present great efficiencies, for the pieces would last longer in circulation than paper dollars and would be of a form easily handled by the public.

This should effect an economy of $4.5 million a year, an important factor in an administration trying to cut costs, he emphasized.

He then told a bit about Susan B. Anthony’s life and how she came to be commemorated on the coin. “If Indians, buffalos, and eagles can be on coins, then a woman can be also,” was a light-hearted comment that evoked laughter.

The Treasury Department stated that before the first coins could be released to the public, anticipated to be in July 1979, it wanted to have 300 million to 500 million on hand so that there would be enough to meet demand. On target, July 2 saw the official release. 

Although certain representatives of the vending machine industry expressed approval of the mini-dollar, it turned out that most vendors took a wait-and-see attitude. Would the public would be as eager to use them as the Treasury had hoped? By year’s end, more than 757,000,000 had been struck, or more than two for every man, woman and child in America. This immense quantity made the entire production of Morgan silver dollars from 1878 to 1921 look like pocket change! More next week. 

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