Susan B. Anthony Dollar, 1979-1999

Susan B. Anthony dollars, known as “Susies”by many collectors, were the second copper-nickel dollar coin produced for circulation in this country. The first was the Eisenhower dollar in 1971, designed by Chief Engraver Frank Gasparro. When the new Anthony dollar was authorized in 1978 Gasparro also produced the design for this coin (the reverse of the eagle landing on the moon was the same for both coins) though apparently he had hopes of reviving a Liberty cap motif used on the earliest U.S. copper coins.

Born in 1820 and raised in New York as a Quaker, Susan B. Anthony was involved in abolitionism and temperance. Those causes brought her into contact with women’s rights advocate Elizabeth Cady Stanton, with whom she partnered in lifelong efforts at political organizing until her death in 1906. When her likeness was chosen for the dollar coin it was the first time that a woman other than a model or allegorical figure appeared on a non-commemorative circulating U.S. coin. It was hoped that a new dollar coin would displace the paper one dollar bill in commerce, but Anthonys generally were ignored by the public.

Photos used with permission and courtesy of Heritage Auction Galleries

Causes for this rejection included the fact that the coin was similar in size and color to the quarter, dollar bills remained in circulation, and vending machines were not immediately programmed to take the new coins. After several failed promotional attempts by various governmental entities to get the public to accept and use the new coin, production stopped in 1981 except for a one-year final issue in 1999.

The obverse of the coin displays a right-facing portrait of Susan B. Anthony in a high-necked garment typical of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, hair pulled back into a bun. The designer’s initials FG appear just below Anthony’s left shoulder. The rim is not dentilled but instead consists of angular segments that frame an eleven-sided polygon. The word LIBERTY is at the top, the date at the bottom, and IN GOD WE TRUST in small letters to the right of Anthony’s chin. Thirteen five-point stars circle the inside of the rim, seven to the left and six to the right; those on the right are split into two three-star groups by the motto. Small P, D, and S mintmarks are located just above the right shoulder. The reverse is a representation of the logo of Apollo XI, a mission that included man’s first walk on the moon. The eleven-sided rim is repeated, framing a left-facing eagle with wings spread as if landing on the surface of the moon pictured on the bottom third of the coin. The eagle is clutching an olive branch. The earth appears above and to the left of the eagle’s head, with E PLURIBUS UNUM just to the right at top center. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA encircles nearly the top half of the rim against the darkness of space, and ONE DOLLAR is at the bottom over the lunar landscape. Thirteen five-point stars form an arc around the eagle, below the top legend but above the earth and motto, split nine to the left of the eagle’s sinister wing and four to the right/below. Gasparro’s initials are also on the reverse, below the eagle’s tail feathers.

Anthony dollars are considered common through MS67 grades, and at most proof grades including the top PR70 classification. Prices are affordable at nearly all grades, bumping slightly for the 1979-P wide rim and 1981-S circulation strikes, but jumping dramatically for MS66 and finer for those same issues and also the 1981-P. Proofs for nearly all dates are reasonably priced up to and including PR70 grades, except for 1979-S Type 2 and 1981-S Type 2 coins which are considerably higher at PR70. Prooflike circulation strikes are known as are cameo and deep cameo proofs; in fact, census/population reports are heavily represented by those classifications. Coins were produced at Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco from 1979 through 1981, and only at Philadelphia and Denver in 1999.


Designer: Frank Gasparro
Circulation Mintage:high 360,222,000 (1979-P), low 3,000,000 (1981-P)
Proof Mintage: high 4,063,083 (1981-S), low 750,000 (1999-P estimated; some proofs were sold originally only in Mint sets)
Denomintion: $1.00
Diameter: ±26.5 mm, reeded edge
Metal content: 75% copper, 25% nickel; inner core is pure copper
Weight: ±8.1 grams
Varieties:Philadelphia circulation coins from 1979 come in narrow and wide rim versions. San Francisco proof coins for 1979 and 1981 are cataloged as Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 coins for 1979 have a filled S mintmark, Type 2 coins have a open, rounded mintmark. Type 1 1981 coins have an open rounded mintmark, Type 2 an open flat mintmark. A few other minor die variations are known.

Additional Resources :

Coin Encyclopedia:
The Official Red Book: A Guide Book of United States Coins. R.S Yeoman (author), Kenneth Bressett (editor). Whitman Publishing.
A Guide Book of United States Type Coins. Q. David Bowers. Whitman Publishing.
United States Coinage: A Study by Type. Ron Guth and Jeff Garrett. Whitman Publishing.
The Experts Guide to Collecting & Investing in Rare Coins. Q. David Bowers. Whitman Publishing.
Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of U.S. Coins. Walter Breen. Doubleday.

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