US Coins

Chance for new US dollar coin: Bowers

The Joys of Collecting column from Jan. 4, 2016, monthly edition of Coin World:

Drawing in my own experiences with Chief Engraver Frank Gasparro, I was present at the creation of the Eisenhower dollars and subsequent Anthony dollars.

In 1977 Congress again sought to replace the paper dollar, which had a life of about 18 months in circulation, versus a durable dollar coin that was expected to last for 20 years or more. 

That was the hope for the Ike dollar conceived in 1970 and first made in 1971, but reality proved to be different. 

By 1977, a new cast of players was in office in Congress, where all coinage decisions are made. It was thought that a small-diameter dollar coin of significantly lighter weight than the Ike dollar could be easily carried. 

The idea progressed, and in 1977 the Engraving Department at the Philadelphia Mint began creating designs in anticipation of appropriate legislation being passed.

On April 17, 1978, the Jimmy Carter administration submitted a recommendation to Congress to adopt the small dollar.

On May 1, this proposal was introduced in the House of Representatives by Walter E. Fauntroy and was referred to the House Committee on Banking, Finance, and Urban Affairs. A Liberty Cap motif was proposed, a nod to tradition. In response, a marvelous array of different motifs was created, many of which will be illustrated in my new book. 

The hands-on favorite by the Treasury, the Mint, and most collectors continued to be the Liberty Cap motif by Gasparro. Coin World and other publications showcased it. All was set.


S. 3026, introduced on May 3, 1978, in the Senate by William Proxmire called for the portrait of Susan B. Anthony to be used. This was quickly followed by a similar bill in the House.

This surprise proposal did not sit well with the numismatic community. On May 17, Margo Russell, editor of Coin World, addressed the House Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs Subcommittee on Historic Preservation and Coinage, praising the earlier recommendation: “We commend the Mint for its selection of the Liberty-Eagle personification on the coin, and we hope this beautiful allegorical design will be selected for the coin, should it become reality.” On the same day Mint Director Stella B. Hackel addressed the same committee essentially saying the same thing, but adding:

“The recommended design for the obverse is a modern or stylized female Liberty Head. This historic design appeared on the first U.S. coins minted in 1793, and appeared in various forms on almost all denominations of coins through modern times. The female Liberty Head is symbolic of and honors all women rather than any particular individual. It is accompanied by the Phrygian cap which has been a symbol of freedom for over 2,500 years and has repeatedly appeared on our coins. It is most appropriate that such a historic American design once again return to an American coin.”

Later in May, other proposals were introduced into Congress, one suggesting dual portraits of Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony (H.R. 12872, May 25), but most calling for Anthony alone. In June more proposals were introduced, including for the images of Abigail Adams, Georgia Neese Clarke Gray, and Elizabeth Pole.

Within the Engraving Department at the Philadelphia Mint some ideas were translated into plasters and galvanos, but most were not. In addition various other motifs were sketched.

It was hoped that the pro-Anthony advocates would back off and Congress would allow the Liberty Cap to be used.

More next week. 

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