Chapter 22: Susan B. Anthony Dollars, Guide to Collecting and Investing Table of Contents


Guide to Collecting and Investing


by Q. David Bowers

Anthony Dollars

In 1979 a new dollar design featuring the portrait of Susan B. Anthony, noted champion of women's rights, made an appearance. The design, executed by Frank Gasparro but mandated by Congress (Gasparro preferred a design featuring the head of Miss Liberty), was continued through 1981. It was widely publicized that the new metal dollar (which contained no silver), slightly larger than a quarter, would be a boon to commerce. It would save the printing of paper dollars (which tended to be worthless after just 18 months in circulation on the average, while the metallic dollars were estimated to last 16 years), would facilitate the purchase of high priced items in vending machines, and the like.

History repeated itself, and echoing what happened with the 20-cent pieces over a century earlier in 1875, the public in 1979 confused the Susan Anthony dollars with the somewhat similarly sized quarters. In addition, there was a political aspect to the pieces. In times of double-digit inflation, President Jimmy Carter's novel new dollar was sometimes referred to as a J.C. penny." Although nearly a billion pieces were struck, very few ever circulated. Heroic efforts, including distributing the pieces as change through various branches of the post office, were mounted, but to no avail. Most remained undistributed in Treasury vaults. The final chapter in the Susan Anthony saga is yet to be written. Will they be melted? At some future year will they emerge to delight collectors?

Although Susan Anthony dollars of 1979 will be forever plentiful, issues of 1980 are scarcer, and issues of 1981 were limited strictly to sets sold to collectors. Thus, in a relative way the 1981 issues, of which the lowest mintage figure is three million, are scarce.

In the Words of Frank Gasparro

The following commentary by Frank Gasparro, former chief engraver of the United States Mint, was created especially for this book, and gives his view of the creation of the Anthony dollar:

The important question for me, that stood out in designing the Susan B. Anthony dollar was how the public would accept my interpretation of the great suffragist.
My first plaster, June 1st, 1978, showed Susan B. Anthony's portrait at the age of twenty-eight. (Considering the few photographs available, I chose this one). This was followed by a rejection by Susan B. Anthony, 2nd, a grand niece, then living. She stated that I portrayed her as "too pretty." So, I had to go back to the "drawing board." Then, the only other photograph I couldobtain was showing her in her very old age. I had to "'toughen" the features of my present plaster model.

Eventually, after much effort, I ended up with a portrait showing Susan B. Anthony in her fifties, at the height of her career. I had to sharpen herfeatures giving her strength of character. I kept in mind, to make the coin artistic and still prove acceptable to the public.

What followed is history. There was trouble with the coin size.

The next hurdle was to experiment with giving the coin a gold or brass finish and still keep the same size.

This proved too late. There were already 450 million of the small dollars deposited in the Federal Reserve vaults and they could not move. Meanwhile, this experiment was picked up and pursued by European countries to give the higher denomination small coin a gold or brass finish. This proved very successful.

For America, the future will see a small size dollar with a gold or brass plate or finish that may prove acceptable, favorably, by the public.
(Signed) Frank Gasparro November 4, 1991.

Where They Went

The following information is from Lauren
Vaughan, United States Mint Office of Public Affairs, Washington, D.C. (Fax communication expressly for this book; received January 5, 1993.)

Susan B. Anthony Dollars:
Calendar year 1979 production, all mints: 757.8 million. Calendar year 1980 production, all mints: 89.7 million. Calendar year 1981 production, all mints: 9.7 million. Total production: 857.2 million
Number paid out since 1979: 470.1 million.

Government inventory as of December 25, 1992:
Stored at the Philadelphia Mint: 111.2 million.

Stored at the Denver Mint: 14.2 million.

Stored at the San Francisco Mint: 55.2 million.

Total stored at mints: 122.2 million.
Stored by Denver Federal.Reserve Bank: 122.2 million. (May include some coins earlier designated for use in 1981 Mint sets; the Mint Office was not sure; if this is the case, some low-mintage 1981 coins may still be in government hands.)

Stored by other Federal Reserve Banks: 84.3 million. Total stored by government: 387.1 million.

Collecting Anthony Dollars

The Susan B. Anthony dollars, minted only from 1979 through 1981, comprise one of the most com-pact, short-lived issues in American coinage.

To my eye, the Anthony design is more attractive than the Eisenhower dollar by the same engraver (Frank Gasparro) that preceded it. Perhaps this is due to the spatial relationships. Miss Anthony on the obverse, even though she is not smiling and has a serious mien, is surrounded by stars, and seems more attractive than her earlier Eisenhower counter-part. The reverse of the Anthony dollar is essentially a copy of that used on the Eisenhower, coin and is taken from the insignia from the Apollo IX spate mission.

Chapter 22: Susan B. Anthony Dollars, Guide to Collecting and Investing Table of Contents