Origins, Values, and Details About The Sacagawea Coin

At the turn of the millennium, the US government minted the iconic Sacagawea golden dollar coin. From 2000 to 2008, the Sacagawea dollar was minted to be a commemorative coin. However in 2008 the program was so popular that the Sacagawea coin morphed into the Native American $1 Coin Program which still exists today. This program was introduced to remember and honor the actions of prominent Native Americans during the founding of the country. 

The Life Of Sacagawea

Sacagawea was a member of the Shoshone tribe and played an integral role in the expedition of Merryweather Lewis and William Clark. When Sacagawea was just a little girl, she was taken from her people by a raiding party and sold into slavery. The tribe she was sold to subsequently lost her in a bet to a French-Canadian fur trader named Toussaint Charbonneau who became her husband.

Before the expedition started Lewis and Clark met Touissant and Sacagawea. Seeing Scagawea’s skills with native languages and knowledge of the territory, Lewis and Clark invited the pair to be a part of the expedition. This decision proved to be wise beyond calculation since Sacagawea was able to act as a liaison between the native peoples and the explorers. She was able to serve as a liaison between the explorers and her own Shoshone people, who were able to provide horses for the exploration.

The expedition began when Sacagawea was five months pregnant with her child. She endured the entire journey while caring for her baby boy, Jean Baptiste. The addition of a mother and child to the expedition can only be described as an accidental stroke of brilliance. The explorers were heavily armed (relatively speaking) but were vastly outnumbered by any tribe that would decide to attack them. 

However, raiding parties and conquering parties generally do not lead the attack with a woman and child. Thanks to Sacagawea and her child, the explorers were received by the natives with curiosity rather than violence. During these interactions, Sacagawea often translated between the two parties and, thankfully, no explorer was ever lost to the native’s aggression.

Sacagawea’s knowledge and skill in the wilderness of the Louisiana Purchase proved to be the linchpin of the mission’s success. Her knowledge of the country’s topography and wild edibles helped keep the explorers alive.

How The Coin Was Selected

Because of her prominent role as guide, liaison, and caretaker, Sacagawea rightfully earned her place in prominence. During the summer of 1998, the Dollar Coin Design Advisory Committee (DCDAC) met in Pennsylvania to decide on the initial design of the coin. The committee comprised prominent figures such as a member of Congress, executive branch appointees, a sculptor, and an architect. In all, the board considered 17 design concepts from the public in general. In the end, the committee made the recommendation that the coin bear Sacagawea’s image to commemorate her role in American history.

Notable Features

The coin bearing Sacagawea’s image is one of America’s most iconic and easily identifiable coins. Many have given this coin to their children or grandchildren as novelty gifts and while the coins are not widely circulated in the USA, they are legal tender. In other countries like Ecuador and El Salvador, these coins are commonly used to purchase goods since they are more convenient to carry than paper money.

The obverse side of the coin (the “heads” side) portrays Sacagawea in a rare three-quarters profile. Most coins at the time only featured a left-side or right-side profile so this design was a departure from the norm. This three-quarters profile gives the impression that she is looking back at the viewer from the front of a line. She likely looked back many times in this manner at the Lewis and Clark expedition to make sure that all of the explorers were still there. The baby, Jean Baptiste, also appears to be sleeping in a cloth sling on Sacagawea’s back. 

On the same side of the coin the words, “In God We Trust” appear, as does the word “Liberty,” which encircles Sacagawea’s head. Finally, the year in which the coin was minted and the city in which it was minted appear on the center-right of the coin. 

The reverse of the coin shows the soaring eagle surrounded by 17 stars. The eagle is the penultimate representation of freedom in American iconography, and the 17 stars represent the 17 extant States at the time of Lewis and Clark’s journey. Printed on the reverse side of the coin are the familiar Latin words, “E Pluribus Unum, One Dollar,” and “The United States of America.”

The Sacagawea Coin Market

While Sacagawea Coins were minted to be commemorative and collectible coins, no surplus or excess value is attributed to them. These circulated coins are worth precisely $1. However, uncirculated coins are worth slightly more but rarely reach higher prices than $3.00 depending on the mint city.

Despite this, three different coins are substantially rare and can bring thousands of dollars to the lucky person who finds one.

Cheerios

The Cheerios Dollar was a coin that was struck with the wrong die. This coin features the soaring eagle with highly detailed feathers on the tail. Nobody knows precisely how many cheerios dollars there are in circulation right now, but the ones that have been found have garnered sky-high prices–up to $29,900!

Wounded Eagle

The Wounded Eagle coin is a defective coin that features a deep scratch across the midsection of the soaring eagle. This sort of dye-gouge defect has fetched anywhere from $200 to $8000 at auction but generally tends towards the lower end of the spectrum. 

P Goodacre Presentation

The coin designer, Glenna Goodacre, requested that she be paid her royalties in Sacagawea coins. The US Mint acquiesced and sent her the coins in a special presentation that appeared almost as proof coins. Some of these coins were sold initially at $200 per piece and can now fetch approximately $300 per coin.

Conclusion

Sacagawea rightfully earned her place on this special piece of currency. While it is called a “golden dollar” Sacagawea’s coin doesn’t contain any gold. Nationwide Coin and Bullion Reserve specializes in silver and gold coins and has been delighting customers for years. Take a look at our offerings page to see the best prices on a wide selection of gold and silver coins!