By Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez for PCGS ……
Susan B. Anthony dollars belong to one of the shortest-lived coin series in United States history, and they were surely among the least popular coins ever issued for the general public.
But the first (and so far only) small-size, copper-nickel clad dollar ever made by the United States Mint offers collectors a surprisingly large number of interesting varieties. As the Susan B. Anthony dollar now gracefully ages into its 40s, many coin collectors (especially those who remember these unusual coins from their youth) are turning to the “Susie B.” and collecting them either as a standalone series or in conjunction with the Eisenhower dollar, its denominational predecessor.
A typical Susan B. Anthony dollar collection consists of only 18 coins, counting the various regular-issue business strikes and proofs, as well as varieties, from 1979-81 and 1999, which are the only years these coins were made. Yet, among those 18 total coins, six are considered significant numismatic varieties.
Among these varieties are two that rank as the scarcest and most valuable in the series, and these are the 1979-S Type 2 and 1981-S Type 2 Proofs. The various types of 1979-S and 1981-S Proof Susan B. Anthony dollars are distinguished by the shaping and overall appearance of the “S” mintmark from the San Francisco Mint.
On the first 1979-S Proof Susan B. Anthony dollars, the “S” mintmark takes on the appearance of a blobby silhouette, with the Type I Proof appearing more like a rounded rectangle with a diagonal line across the middle rather than a clearly defined “S”, as seen with the Type 2 variety. This was certainly a subject of concern for officials at the Mint, including Frank Gasparro, who designed the coin and was then serving as Chief Engraver.
According to the late numismatist Alan Herbert, the Type I Proof Susan B. Anthony dollar was struck from July to October 1979, with the Type 2 produced in November and December. There are no known mintage records to tell us exactly how many Type I and Type 2 dollars were made in 1979, but Herbert’s figures and observations by other experts suggest that approximately 80% to 85% of the 3,677,175 Proof dollars struck in 1979 were of the Type I variety.
This would, therefore, mean that about 20% – a much smaller share totaling roughly 740,000 pieces – are Type 2s.
The “S” mintmark seen on the 1979-S Type 2 Susan B. Anthony dollar was also used on all 1980-S Proof Susie Bs and on the majority of 1981-S Proofs, too. However, by the end of 1981, the “S” mintmark punch originally made for the 1979-S Type 2 dollar succumbed to wear. A new punch was made sometime during the autumn of 1981 featuring a much clearer “S” with distinct, bulbous serifs.
As with the 1979-S Type 2 Proof, it is unknown exactly how many 1981-S Type 2s were struck. Estimates place that figure at around 650,000 to 675,000 coins, or roughly 15% to 17% of the total mintage of 4,063,083 proofs.
The 1979-S Type 2 and 1981-S Type 2 Proof Susan B. Anthony Proof dollars are keys for the series. And with mintages of fewer than 750,000 per issue, it’s easy to see how these pieces are considered relatively scarce in the context of modern United States coins. Not only are they sought by collectors assembling collections of Susan B. Anthony dollars for albums and displays, but they are also popular with PCGS Registry Set members who seek the finest specimens possible for their collections.
The original run of Proof Susan B. Anthony dollars from 1979 through 1981 was produced at a time when the Deep Cameo method of manufacturer was just becoming standard for all United States Proof coins. While Deep Cameos are the rule rather than the exception for Proof Susie Bs, Proof-70 specimens from that period are still somewhat scarcer than they are for Proofs of a more recent vintage. Therefore, collectors must look a little harder than they might expect when seeking numismatically perfect examples of these Proof dollars.
Presently, PCGS has graded 5,929 of the 1979-S Type II in PR69 and 592 in PR70, with auction prices ranging from about $45 for the PR69 and to $110 for the PR70. Meanwhile, PCGS has graded 4,377 of the somewhat scarcer 1981-S Type 2 in PR69 and 437 in PR70; recent auction prices for the PR69 average around $80, while the PR70 trends in the marketplace around $270.