The following is a re-post from the “Bowers on Collecting” column on Coin Update.
I enjoy modern coins and often order new items of interest from the Mint. Others I buy in the marketplace. A few years ago, I decided to build a full set of modern dollars from the 1971 Eisenhower to date. I was present at the creation of the Ike motif, so to speak. Chief Engraver Frank Gasparro was a fine friend, and I discussed the designs and other aspects with him.
The basic idea of the Treasury Department was to issue a dollar coin to be used in everyday commerce, and to last perhaps 20 or 30 years, to replace dollar bills that often become soiled within two years. A peripheral value was to provide coins for use on gaming tables in Las Vegas and elsewhere. Back in 1971, “elsewhere” usually meant Nevada. Today one can hardly throw a copy of the Red Book without hitting a casino.
However, if you are looking for a text which focuses more on modern United States dollar coins, then A Guide Book of Modern United States Dollar Coins would be a great start.
The Ikes did see use in Las Vegas but were not wildly popular. By 1971 plastic chips were the order of the day.
A full set of Ike dates and mint marks from 1971 to the last issue, 1978, took me about a month to build. I wanted circulation strikes as well as Proofs, and also one each of the minute die changes of the early years, such as details of the Moon.
Then came the Susan B. Anthony dollars 1979 to 1981 plus, surprise! — a tag-along issue in 1979. This was another Frank Gasparro design — not per his wishes or those of the numismatic community. He and most of the rest of us hoped for a Liberty Cap motif reflective of the copper cent and half cents of the 1790s, a return to the classics. However, political correctness reared its head in Congress, and suffragette Susan B. Anthony was mandated.
When I assembled my set a few years ago these were very easy to find in a combination of high grade and nice appearance. In fact, if modern dollars appeal to you, building a set of “Susies” is a good way to go. While some people want MS-70 and Proof-70 coins in certified holders, some of which are expensive, unless you are building a PCGS or NGC Registry Set you will be very pleased with just about any brilliant Proof, as nearly all are Gems. In fact, one in just Proof-65 would be a rarity! Mint State coins take a bit more care, but MS-65 and 66 coins are inexpensive and can be hand-picked for beauty.
The Susies did not gain much traction as a replacement for the dollar bill. Hope springs eternal, and the Treasury did not give up. Next came the Sacagawea dollars — fun to collect and one of my all-time favorite series. It was hoped that these “golden dollars,” made in manganese-bronze, would finally catch on.
Next week I will explore these in-depth. If you are a specialist in Sacagaweas, you probably know these two pieces of trivia:
- There is a rarity in the series due to General Mills and boxes of Cheerios cereal!
- Sacagawea dollars by the millions are in everyday circulation as you read these words, but not in the United States!