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Glenna Goodacre, Designer of Sacagawea Dollar Coin: In Memoriam

By Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker for CoinWeek ….

On Monday, April 13, noted American sculptor Glenna Goodacre passed away of natural causes at her home in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She was 80 years old.

Goodacre is best known to coin collectors as the designer of the obverse of the Sacagawea/Native American golden dollar coin, which made its debut in 2000 as a circulating coin and continues to be issued (since 2011) as a collector’s item to this day. Her design was the winning candidate in a national competition held in 1999.

But Goodacre’s career as a professional artist and sculptor extended beyond numismatics.

She gained a significant amount of national prominence with the 1993 dedication of the Vietnam Women’s Memorial bronze sculpture on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. – where it is part of the larger Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The Women’s Memorial commemorates those women, mostly nurses, who served during the Vietnam War.

In 1997, Goodacre was chosen to sculpt the Irish Memorial in Philadelphia, completing the immense work in 2003. The Memorial is dedicated to the Irish men, women and children who died in the Great Famine of 1845-50 and to all those who immigrated from Ireland to the United States in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

And also before the release of the Sacagawea dollar, a copy of Goodacre’s larger-than-life statue of President Ronald Reagan was unveiled at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California in 1998.

After the Sacagawea dollar coin brought her to the attention of numismatists, Goodacre continued to produce both public and private works until her retirement in 2016. This she managed to do in spite of the health effects resulting from a traumatic fall in 2007.

Glenna Goodacre was born on August 28, 1939 in Lubbock, Texas to a prominent local family. After high school, Goodacre graduated from Colorado College in Colarado Springs (the same school that serves as host for the ANA’s annual Summer Seminar) and went on to study at the Art Students League in New York.

At the time of her death, she had made Santa Fe her home for almost 40 years.


Former United States Mint Director Philip Diehl, who served from 1994 to 2000 and helped shepherd the introduction of the Sacagawea dollar into circulation, had this to say about Glenna Goodacre:

I vividly recall walking into the room where designs of the new Sacagawea coin were on display. We had invited both Mint engravers and outside artists to submit designs. Glenna’s rendering of mother and infant son immediately spoke to me, and in short order, my staff and I agreed to submit her design to Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin for his approval.

At the time I knew nothing about Glenna, but after Secretary Rubin approved our recommendation (and that’s a story in itself), I came to know her. Not only was she extraordinarily talented, she was gracious, kind and fun. We eventually learned that we grew up within a few miles of each other in Lubbock, Texas. We shared a pride [in] being natives of Buddy Holly’s hometown.

No doubt, she is missed by all who knew and loved her.

In 2017, CoinWeek Editor Charles Morgan spoke with Dan Anthony, Goodacre’s manager and longtime friend (who also helped in the development of the Sacagawea dollar), about the design of that coin and what it meant for Goodacre’s life and career:

CoinWeek Podcast #62: Glenna Goodacre’s Sacagawea Dollar Experience with Dan Anthony

Mobile phone users. Stream this podcast for free by downloading the podomatic app or subscribe to the CoinWeek Podcast on iTunes.

“The Sacagawea dollar does not get the respect it deserves,” says Charles, “because to many people it symbolizes another failed dollar coin program. This is unfair. When the Sacagawea dollar debuted in 2000, it heralded the possibility of a new era of American coinage. Goodacre’s design was elegant, soft, and Sacagawea’s forward gaze recalls that imbued by Leonardo da Vinci on his most famous work, the Mona Lisa. Americans did not spend as many Sacagawea dollars as its advocates had hoped for – but looking at the other two “golden dollar” coin programs that have followed, it’s plain to see that our apathy towards the denomination had nothing to do with the Sacagawea coin’s design and more to do with our stubborn refusal to phase out the dollar bill.”

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Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker
Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker
Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker have been contributing authors on CoinWeek since 2012. They also wrote the monthly "Market Whimsy" column and various feature articles for The Numismatist and the book 100 Greatest Modern World Coins (2020) for Whitman Publishing.

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