public. Going all the way back to the time of the Civil War, the dollar
coinage seems to have lost its favor. It was replaced by greenbacks or
paper currency. Even the beloved Morgan Dollar was forced on the American
public as a means to subsidize the Silver Mining moguls of the early to
mid-1870s. The Treasury reported it could save literally millions of
dollars by eliminating the one dollar coin. By the time the Susan B.
Anthony Dollar was proposed, the U.S. government knew it was going to be a tough
sell to the American public, and it would have to somehow force it to become the
way of the future. As we all know, it ended up being one of the biggest
failures ever devised by the U.S. Congress.
The Research Triangle Institute was hired by the Mint Bureau to perform a
study on the one dollar coinage and public's acceptance of it. There
findings, which were released in September 1976, stated that the coin should
either be removed from circulation, or a coin of smaller size and weight might
be more readily utilized by the American public. That is all the Mint
Bureau needed to read to create a sort of skewed argument for a new one dollar
coin. There debate for the new dollar went something like this.
Since the manufacture of the $1 paper note accounted for a large portion of the
budget for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, and since the costs of
manufacturing the notes were expected to rise, and since the cost of producing a
$1 bill is 3˘ with a life expectancy of 18 months,
wouldn't it be more logical to have the mint produce a $1 coin at a cost of 15˘
that would last for ten to 15 years or more? It would save the government
a lot of money! Of course the answer would be yes, but the American public
didn't want it; the vending machine companies didn't want to, or many couldn't
afford to, refit their machines; and, the banks and retail operations would have
to recalibrate machinery and replace cash drawers. The expense to the
business community, and ultimately to the consumer, was never considered in the
formulation of the new one dollar coin. After all, why should that be
considered as necessary to the success of a coin.
Dr. Alan Goldman, of the Mint Bureau, took the
one dollar coin as a pet project. It soon became a political football.
Since the Women's Liberation Movement was at its height in 1977 and 1978,
politicians saw this as an opportunity to win votes by placing a woman on the
coin, and Dr. Goldman reasoned by doing so it would increase the probability of
the coin's success. There were a number of straw polls taken and since
Susan B. Anthony was in the top ten of all the polls, Dr. Goldman chose her for
the coin's effigy. Mint Engraver Frank Gasparro was appointed to design
the portrait of Susan B. Anthony, and the reverse would be based on
Gasparro's Eisenhower Dollar design of the eagle landing on the moon. An
advertising campaign was launch to inform and educate the American public on the
new coin. Following the start of the media blitz, House Representative
Mary Rose Oakar, an Ohio Democrat, et. al., introduced a bill to Congress
promoting the Susan B. Anthony dollar, and in October 1978, the bill was
enacted. The headquarters mint in Philadelphia began production in
December of 1978.
Recommendations were made to withhold the
release of the new dollars from circulation. It seemed they were getting
some bad press from either coin dealers and/or collectors, and Dr. Goldman
delayed the release of the coins until early July of 1979, after creating a
stockpile of 500 million coins from all three mints. When the Susan B.
Anthony Dollars were finally released on July 2nd, they were met with a less
then enthusiastic response by the American public. The coin was criticized
without mercy. Some people said the the portrait of Susan B. Anthony was
too ugly, and some said she was made to look too pretty for the homely woman
that she was. Many said the coin was too small, and would be easily
mistaken for a quarter dollar, and that was the same cry heard from the vending
machine companies. In fact, many store merchants made it a policy not to
accept the new dollars for any transaction. Even the postal campaign to
promote the Susan B. Anthony Dollar came to a halt about two weeks after it
started. Oh well, so much for the Treasury's media campaign to educate the
American public. The tax payers paid for that campaign anyway.
With well over 800 million coins laying fallow
in the U.S. Treasury and bank vaults, and only a tiny number in circulation,
what was the government going to do with all of these coins? They could
discontinue the $1 paper note. It was tried with the U.S. overseas
military in 1980, but when foreign banks like the Deutsch Bank in West Germany
exchanged the Susan B. Anthony dollars for about 43% less then the paper $1 note
that ended the experiment.
The Susan B. Anthony Dollar was manufactured in
only four years; 1979, 1980, 1981 and 1999. For such a short lived coin,
there are a number of varieties to collect. In 1979 Philadelphia struck
coins, there is the Type I with a thick rim, and a Type II with a thin rim.
The 1979-S has a filled "S" mintmark, and a clear "S" mintmark. There is
also a variety where the third star is much smaller then the rest. The
1980-S has shown two different styles of "S" mintmarks, and the 1981-S has had
an "S" mintmark that looks like an "8" along with the regular "S" mintmark.
Look for those on the Proof coins.
The Susan B. Anthony Dollars are 26.5 mm in
diameter, weigh 8.1 grams, have a reeded edge and a composition of an outer
layer of .750 copper and .250 nickel bonded to a pure copper core. They
were struck at the Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Denver mints.
The SBA Dollars are fairly easily to collect
along with most of its varieties. If the U.S. Mint ever decides to destroy
all of these dollars it has just sitting in its vaults, it could become a real
collectible, but until that time.....