The Joys of Collecting column from the Feb. 1, 2016, Monthly issue of Coin World:
The website smalldollars.com, operated by Mike Wallace, is recommended as a general source for information on Anthony dollars.
For the preceding series, Eisenhower dollars, the Ike Group Forum is valuable.
Both series seem remarkably plain and simple at first glance, but upon close examination each has interesting situations to explore, as I am doing in a new Whitman book, A Guide Book of Modern United States Dollar Coins 1971 to Date, set for release next July.
The new Anthony mini-dollars were launched in July 1979 with great fanfare. The House Appropriations Committee had approved $300,000 “for the Mint to conduct an educational circulation program.” By September, nearly 400,000 kits had been distributed to banks, media, and others. By year end 757,000,000 coins had been struck at the Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco Mints — or more than two for every man, woman, and child in America. It was only a matter of time until the Anthony dollar would save the Federal Reserve System $50 million yearly by replacing $1 bills in commerce.
Rep. Frank Annunzio, D-Ill., who shepherded many coinage proposals of the era, commented: “The new dollar coin may well go down in history as the only coin that more people wanted before it was released than after it was released.”
Undaunted and with outward expressions of hope and success, the United States Post Office system was tapped, and 35,000 signs showcasing the new dollars were put up. Many postal patrons received dollars in change and over 9,000 stamp-vending machines with dollar acceptors were installed at post offices.
The Anthony dollar’s designer, Chief U.S. Mint Engraver Frank Gasparro, told me in 1979 that at the Philadelphia Mint cafeteria, he tendered a new dollar for a small purchase, and the cashier, thinking that a quarter had been tendered, gave him only change for that. From the outset he had held the coin could confuse people, but no one paid attention to him.
Apropos of confusing the new dollars with quarter dollars, Littleton Coin Company President David Sundman shared this:
“It was Memorial Day weekend 1980 and I was attending my 10th reunion at Gettysburg College, in Gettysburg, Pa. Directly across the street from my lodging was a nice 7-11 store, and in the morning I went over to it to get a cup of coffee and my favorite paper, the Sunday edition of the New York Times.