Coins like the Susan B. Anthony dollar, which are designed to honor a legacy or historical figure, are among the most exciting and coveted in the industry. This interest and general popularity stem from the story of its origination and the history it symbolizes. Although these specimens are not always the ones that sell for the highest price at auction nor the most sought-after for elite collections, they are abundant in intention and honor. When it comes to circulated American coins, it is clear that only inspiring and historic icons find their way to the face of a coin.
Other iconic legacy coins, like the Kennedy Half Dollar, are rich with sentiment and a backstory; the Susan B. Anthony dollar is no exception. So, the question is, what is the story of the coin honoring this renowned feminist?
Although most of us learned about Susan B. Anthony’s work and leadership in the women’s suffrage movement, we’ll refresh your memory here so you can understand the origins of her dollar coin and why the honor is so well-deserved. Anthony was among the most prominent champions of women’s suffrage. Although most remembered for those efforts, she was also a determined and fierce advocate for abolition, labor rights, and equal pay for equal work.
Anthony was an advocate during a time when women were not commonly seen or welcomed to speak publicly, much less call out society’s social norms. This was particularly true when done against highly-political societal norms that were in dire need of change. Nonetheless, Anthony was relentless in her travels across the country to speak to people from all walks of life. Her efforts risked the potential for punishment and arrests, yet she persisted.
Of her many strengths and admirable traits, Susan B. Anthony was strategic, energetic, passionate, disciplined, and more. Each of these aspects of her personality played a causal role in her incredibly successful advocacy and female leadership champion.
First issued in 1979, the Susan B. Anthony dollar is the first circulating coin in American history to feature a female icon. Although its mintage was relatively short-lived, lasting the two years following its inception before being reintroduced in 1999, it is not an uncommon coin.
President Carter signed the Susan B. Anthony Dollar Coin Act in 1978. Beyond introducing Anthony as the new dollar coin symbol and making history, it amended the pre-existing design, size, and weight. The coin was then introduced in Rochester, New York, as an added way to honor Anthony and her courageous political efforts since the city was her home for a time during her activism years. Throughout its minting, more than 888,000,000 Susan B. Anthony dollars were made for circulation.
After replacing the Eisenhower dollar, the intention behind the Susan B. Anthony dollar’s anticipated circulation was to diminish the need for a paper dollar. This change would have saved the United States Treasury Department millions in manufacturing costs. This goal was never met, however, because the coin was so often mistaken for a quarter. This reduced demand and ultimately led to the abrupt end of Susan B. Anthony dollar production. After its 1999 reintroduction, dollar coins were then replaced by the new golden coins that featured Sacajawea. The new golden design was introduced to avoid future confusion between dollar coins and quarters.
Despite the history of the Susan B. Anthony dollar, it is not typically an expensive coin. Consistent with the downward trend of dollar coins being used in circulation, they are not often found in pocket change. On the other hand, however, this does not translate to them being uncommon or pricey. In fact, the opposite is true. Although the historic coin is not found in many collections, they remain a popular specimen primarily due to their iconic origin story.
Based on the year of minting, location, grade, condition, and more features, the price of the specimen will vary. Although they tend to sell for more than their face value, the range typically falls between just $2.00 and $10.00 for circulated coins. In comparison, uncirculated versions range from $2.50 up to $200.00. Complete sets of proof coins and varieties tend to cost around $350.00.
The design of the Susan B. Anthony dollar features a side view portrait of Anthony on its obverse, while the reverse features a bald eagle preparing the land on the moon. The reverse is in honor of the 1969 American lunar landing, Apollo 11 insignia.
The entire design of the iconic coin was done by the Chief Engraver at United States Mint at the time, Frank Gasparro. The dollar coin is unique in its eleven-sided polygonal edge and the fact that it was designed to be smaller than previously minted dollar coins. The size reduction was meant to help the United States Treasury Department reduce the need for paper $1 currency. However, this smaller size actually worked against the Treasury. Ultimately, it confused the public, making the dollar coin appear far too similar to a quarter. This led to the adjustment that made dollar coins a new entrant int the gold coin category.
The Susan B. Anthony dollar is between the size of quarters and a half-dollar coin with its diameter of 26.50 millimeters. Its outer layer comprises 75% copper and 25% nickel, while its internal composition is 100% pure copper. With these ratios in mind, its overall composition is 91.67% copper and 8.33% nickel; weighing in at 8.10 grams. This is similar to other American coins, like the penny, which is given its color from its copper content but is not entirely comprised of the metal.
Even though Susan B. Anthony dollar coins are not rare, nor do they hold an especially high dollar value; they are rich in history, origins, legacy, and more. Susan B. Anthony is one of the most prominent figures in American history. She was a champion activist in more ways than one and deserves a feature on American currency.