Q. David Bowers
A twentieth century dollar-sized circulating coin in American numismatics is the
Susan B. Anthony so-called "mini-dollar" struck in 1979, 1980, and 1981.
The obverse and reverse designs were by Chief Engraver Frank Gasparro. The obverse depicts Susan B. Anthony, the well-known advocate of women’s rights. The reverse is an adaptation of the eagle-landing-on-the-moon design used earlier in the Eisenhower series. For the first time in the dollar series, Philadelphia Mint coins bore the mintmark P.
The Anthony dollars were launched with great expectation, as it was
felt that their use in circulation would save the government a lot of
money, as the coins would last for well over a decade, whereas a typical
paper dollar was apt to last less than two years. However, the size was
confusingly close to the quarter dollar, cash registers were not equipped
to take coins of the dollar denomination, and there was a general resentment against the Jimmy Carter administration at the time -- and these
"mini-dollars" were said by some to reflect diminished purchasing
power. These considerations added up to make the Anthony dollar a circulating failure. Despite government attempts to have them circulate,
The mintage figures tell the story:
In 1979 at all three mints over 800 million were struck.
In 1980 the figure dropped to less than 1/20 that, or about 42 million.
In 1981 the only coins struck were those for sale to collectors.
From a numismatic viewpoint, I consider Susan B. Anthony dollars to be interesting and easy to collect. Basically, there were three coins made at each of three different mints in three years.
In actuality, varieties exist, including the so-called "Narrow Rim" and "Wide Rim" of 1979 (the Wide Rim is perceived by some numismatists to be scarcer), Proof as well as business strike versions of 1979-S, 1980-S and 1981-S, and Filled as well as Clear Mintmark versions of Proof 1979-S, and two mintmark varieties of Proof l981-S coins. These mint mark differences are rather trivial in my opinion, and if they appeared on any earlier series - such as on a 19th-century American dollar - few would pay any attention to them. As it is, differences among modern coins are unusual, and they are listed in the Guide Book of United States Coins, the most popular guide as to what to collect.
As of this writing, hundreds of millions of Anthony dollars remain in government storage, although there has been a call for them in recent years, and the supply is diminishing. Right now, in 1996, anyone wanting a truckload of Anthony dollars for face value can obtain same through a bank, by having the bank contact the Federal Reserve System. Recently, the Mint, through its sales department sold 40,000 1981-P, D, and S dollars that had been stored since 1981, as part of sets made for collectors.
Obverse depicts Susan B. Anthony, well-known women's rights advocate