In December 1997, the President signed into law the
United States Dollar Coin Act of 1997, requiring the Treasury Department
to place into circulation a new one dollar coin, similar in size to the
Susan B. Anthony one dollar coin. The legislation required that
the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with Congress, select the
designs for the obverse and reverse of the new one dollar coin. The
reverse of the coin was required by statute to depict an eagle; the
design of the obverse was left to the discretion of the Secretary.
It took many individuals to help decide on the design
for the new dollar coin. In April 1998, Secretary Robert E. Rubin
created the Dollar Coin Design Advisory Committee (DCDAC) to consider
design concepts for the obverse of the new dollar coin, and to recommend
to the Secretary a single such design concept. The committee's
membership included a member of Congress, a university president, the
President of the American Numismatic Society, the Undersecretary of the
Smithsonian Institute, a sculptor, and an architect. U.S. Mint Director
Philip N. Diehl chaired the committee in a non-voting capacity.
What exactly was supposed to go on the coin?
Secretary Rubin gave design parameters regarding the new coin to the
committee. He asked that the design be of one or more women, that it not
depict a living person, and that the design maintain a dignity befitting
the Nation's coinage. In June 1998, the DCDAC met in Philadelphia and
listened to 17 design concept presentations from members of the public.
Many additional suggestions arrived via mail, phone calls to individual
committee members, and e-mail messages to the U.S. Mint Web site. The
next day, the committee deliberated in public session and considered six
finalist design concepts selected from the dozens of suggestions.
On June 9, 1998, the committee recommended that the new dollar coin bear
a design representing Sacagawea, the Native American woman whose
presence was essential to the success of the Lewis and Clark expedition.
This raised tremendous public interest, and some controversy surrounding
the spelling of the young Shoshone woman's name. On July 9, 1998,
Secretary Rubin accepted the Committee's recommendation and authorized
the Mint to move forward with the actual design of both the obverse and
the reverse of the new dollar coin. The decision to create a design
inspired by Sacagawea reflects a long numismatic tradition of placing
symbolic and allegorical images of women and Native Americans on U.S.
coinage as a means of communicating our nation's history and values.
In August 1998, the Mint wrote to a variety of organizations and
individuals requesting recommendations and information about artists who
would be good candidates to submit coin designs for this project. The
Mint specifically sought out artists with knowledge of Native American
culture and history. After reviewing the responses, the Mint invited 23
artists, including Mint sculptors and engravers, to submit obverse and
reverse designs for the new coin. The artists were requested to be
sensitive to cultural authenticity and to specifically avoid creating a
representation of a classical European face in Native American
headdress. The artists were also requested to create reverse eagle
designs that reflect peace and freedom, and, if submitting both obverse
and reverse designs, to attempt to create complementary designs. The
Mint received 121 designs.
In November and December, the Mint invited representatives of the Native
American community, numismatists, artists, educators, historians,
Members of Congress, US Mint and Treasury officers and employees, and
other members of the public to review and offer comment on all designs
received. Using these comments as a guide, the Mint narrowed the field
to six obverse and seven reverse designs.
From the final 13 designs, the field was narrowed down to seven designs
(three obverse, four reverse). On Thursday, December 17, the U.S.
Commission on Fine Arts recommended one obverse and one reverse to
Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin.
The final design was announced on May 4, 1999, at an historic White
House event. At the same time, the event was broadcast live across the
Internet via a simultaneous Webcast.
The obverse design, by Glenna Goodacre, depicts
the young Shoshone woman, Sacagawea, portrayed in three-quarter profile.
In the Shoshone verbal legend, Sacagawea is described as having large
dark eyes, a feature included in this portrait relief. On her back,
Sacagawea carries her infant son Jean Baptiste, who she carried and
cared for on her entire 3,000-mile portion of the expedition with Lewis
and Clark. Goodacre designed the obverse using a 22-year-old
Shoshone college student as her model. Goodacre, who is best known for
her sculpture honoring women at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial site, told
The Washington Post, "It's amazing to me to think that I'll have a
small piece of sculpture in people's pockets for years."
The reverse design, by Thomas D. Rogers, Sr., presents
a soaring American bald eagle, our nation's symbol, encircled by 17
stars - symbolizing the states of the union at the time of the Lewis and
Clark expedition in 1804.
The coin will be golden in color, not silver toned. It
will also have a "distinctive edge," which means that it will
not display the reeded edge as seen on the quarter or the Susan B.
Anthony dollar coin. However, it will be the same size as the Susan B.
Anthony dollar coin, which is 26.5 mm (1.043 inches) in diameter. The
new coin will have similar metallic, anti-counterfeiting properties as
current circulating U.S. coins.
Coins for general circulation will be minted at the Philadelphia and
Denver Mint facilities. Proof coins will be minted at the San
ceremonies for the Sacagawea Dollars were held on November 18, 1999 at
the Philadelphia Mint.
Although the new
Dollars were not slated for release until March 1, 2000, a single example from
the Philadelphia MInt was reportedly found in a Mint-sewn bag of 1999
Connecticut Quarter Dollars early in December 1999 (when Coin World
staffers attended the first strike ceremonies at Philadelphia, they
noted that "...Connecticut State quarters were being struck on
high-speed presses, counted and placed inside Mint bags and sewn shut,
and palletized less than 25 feet away from where 2000 [dated] Sacagawea
dollars were being struck on similar presses and placed into hoppers for
counting and bagging"). This coin was
offered on eBay by Jared Burbank of J&J Coins of Pueblo, Colorado
but the sale was closed prematurely on December 22, 1999 at a high bid
of $1,136., pending an investigation by the Secret Service.
Coincidentally, the coin was certified by Independent Coin Grading and
graded MS-65 on December 21, 1999. The holder label identifies the
certification date, thus assuring that this coin will always be
recognized as the first one to leave the Mint, unofficially or
otherwise. As of February 21, 2000, J&J Coins' website
indicated that the Secret Service had cleared the coin for sale and that
bids were being accepted for it.
Sources and/or recommended reading:
Coin World, January 3, 2000, pages 1 and 3
Numismatic News, January 11, 2000
States Mint website at http://www.usmint.gov
J&J Coins website at www.jjcoins.com