US Coins

Explaining decisions on Anthony dollars Bowers

Portrait of Susan B. Anthony that Chief Engraver Frank Gasparro adapted for use on the mini-dollar.

Anthony portrait from steel engraving published in 1881 by G.E. Perine & Co.; coin image courtesy of Q. David Bowers.

The Joys of Collecting column from Feb. 8, 2016, issue of Coin World

A survey of world coins revealed that for the new Anthony dollar to circulate it would have to weigh less than 9 grams and be slightly larger than a 24.26-millimeter quarter dollar to distinguish it from the lower denomination. The diameter of 26.5 millimeters was selected “so that the dollar coin could be distinguished from low-value foreign coins by automated counting, sorting, and vending machines.”

In 2000 the Sacagawea dollar was launched. Made of manganese-brass clad, it was bright yellow in color. Compare the decision resulting in that coin’s composition to the following Mint statement from 1980: “Why wasn’t the dollar made a different color?

“Answer: Extensive testing was done on brass-colored materials bonded to a copper core. After months of handling the alloys deviated from their original brass color to various shades of yellow-green. The silver-colored cupro-nickel metal was found to be ideal.”

Sacagawea dollars in 2000 did indeed turn yellow-green, also purple, brown, and other colors.

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Apparently, the 1980 study was forgotten. This is not unusual in the annals of coin production. With a 20-year gap the cast of characters in Congress and the top Mint levels mostly comprised different people who were not aware of history.  

Also, Mint officials stated that one could distinguish an Anthony dollar from a Washington quarter dollar by touch, by feeling the relief of the eagle’s head on the dollar, which was higher than the relief of the eagle’s head on the quarter. Although this seems difficult for me to comprehend, perhaps the visually impaired who read Braille could do this. 

More from 1980: “Why not take the reeding off the coin?” 

Answer: “The reeded edge acts as a deterrent to anyone who may attempt to pass slugs to the visually handicapped. Without reeds it is easier to manufacture slugs the size and weight of any coin.”

The 2000 Sacagawea dollar does not have reeding. 

In my forthcoming (this summer) Whitman book, A Guide Book of Modern United States Dollar Coins 1971 to Date, I share in many pages the fascinating and sometimes unbelievable complexity of this coin’s history.

As a set of gem Mint State and Proof Anthony dollar dates and Mints can be bought for less than $200, there should be room for such in any collection.

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