With the US Treasury’s stockpile of Susan B. Anthony dollar coins dwindling rapidly, the United States Mint was charged under the United States $1 Coin Act of 1997 to create a new dollar type coin. Accordingly, the Dollar Coin Design Advisory Committee, appointed by Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, held a public design competition in the summer of 1998. After the committee “heard formal presentations from the public [and] received suggestions for designs from the public”, they decided to request further designs that bore “a design of Liberty represented by a Native American woman, inspired by Sacagawea” (GAO, 1999, pg3). Despite this, Republican US House Representative Michael Castle (DE) believed that this was a mistake and that the public would prefer a depiction of the Statue of Liberty instead. He worked with the independent, professional, and nonpartisan General Accounting Office (GAO) to conduct a public poll regarding the new coin design.
According to the poll, Castle was correct. 65% of individuals questioned indicated a preference for the Statue of Liberty motif, with 81% feeling either “Very Strongly” or “Somewhat Strongly” about the issue (GAO, 1999, pg4-5). While the GAO released a very thorough report on their survey, the Treasury rejected most of their findings, citing the “insufficient” nature and “narrow scope” of the survey, and decided to proceed with the Sacagawea motif (GAO, 1999, pg7).
While it is important that a real Native American is included on the nation’s coinage, instead of an allegorical figure or western European in Native costume, it is also important to understand that there is a minor controversy in the spelling of Sacagawea’s name. Sacagawea is the most commonly accepted version with the US Geographical Board and other federal agencies authorizing its use for official purposes (i.e., this dollar coin). Depending on what region of the country you come from, however, or which source you rely on, her name can also be spelled as Sacajawea or Sakakawea.
The 2001-S Sacagawea Proof in Today’s Market
As Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker discussed in their 2012 article “The Collapse of the 2001-S Sacagawea Proof“, the 2001-S Proof is “Exhibit A” in the argument against paying top dollar for high grade (i.e. DCAM PR 70) modern conditional rarities. This still holds to this day. Shortly after this coin was released, the first certified DCAM PR-70 was sold at auction for $3,300 by Teletrade on October 18, 2004. Less than a month later, an identical coin was sold by the same company for $1,870 – a 43.33% decrease. The price continued to fall as population numbers for the top grade continued to rise sharply. By November 2009, with a population of 277 coins, the price had fallen to below $200.
While there does come a point when no more, or at least very few, perfect-grade coins remain undiscovered, the 2001-S has only just begun reaching that point. As of today, PCGS and NGC have certified 1,336 and 3,028 examples as PR70, respectively. This combined total of 4,364 pieces represents an increase of 891.82% over the 440 pieces certified when Morgan and Walker wrote their 2012 article. At that time, PR 70s were selling for approximately $80, and the most recent public auction records dating back to 2014 reveal that the price was still falling and at that time was averaging between $30 and $50. This decline, while it continued, did slow down and today, a 2001-S Sacagawea graded and certified as DCAM PF 70 can be easily purchased for $20 to $30. Some examples are even selling online for as little as $18.
Coins graded below DCAM PR 70 do not command any significant premium over face value, when you take into account the actual cost of encapsulation and the possibility that a coin won’t achieve a “perfect” grade. DCAM PR 69 coins are worth even less. With a combined graded and certified DCAM PF 69 population of 28,586, examples can be purchased online or at coin shows for between $5 and $10. When compared to auction records, this low purchase price also illustrates the danger of modern conditional rarities. In Heritage Auction’s July 2005 ANA sale, a certified PR 69 sold for $431. The price would fall sharply to between $50 and $75 by 2008. By 2011, this grade was regularly selling for $15 to $20.
Due to their large mintages, the high quality of production, and young age, the value of modern Proof coins has the tendency to fluctuate greatly. They tend to stabilize only once the collecting community has a solid idea of how many top population examples exist. While this could take up to 100 years, it is likely that like with the 2001-S Sacagawea, this ongoing process has taken almost 20 years.
In accordance with Treasury guidelines, the obverse design of the golden dollar portrays Sacagawea, a member of the Lemhi Shoshone Native American tribe who acted as the guide for the famed Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1805-6. While her bust’s torso is facing right in a classic three-quarter profile, Sacagawea looks directly at the viewer and carries her infant son Jean Baptiste on her back. Since the design guidelines requested that all submissions “be sensitive to cultural authenticity, and try to avoid creating a representation of a classical European face in Native American headdress”, Sacagawea is depicted in a naturalistic style. Interestingly, Goodacre used a modern-day Shoshone woman named Randy’L He-dow Teton as her model.
Above Sacagawea’s head is the legend LIBERTY, in the left-hand field is IN GOD WE TRUST, and in the right-hand field below her chin is the date (2001). The mintmark (S) is below the date. The designer’s initials (G.G) can be seen on the infant’s swaddling cloth at the bottom of the design.
The reverse, like many US coins, is dominated by an eagle. With outstretched wings, the eagle soars to the left. Above the eagle’s head is the US motto E PLURIBUS UNUM. The entire design is ringed by the inscription UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and the denomination ONE DOLLAR. The eagle’s right wing tip overlaps slightly with “OF” at the top of the coin. Within the legend is a ring of 17 stars. These 5-pointed stars represent all of the states belonging to the Union at the time of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The designer’s initials (T.D.R.) can be seen below the eagle’s tail feathers and to the right of the denomination.
The edge of the 2001-S Sacagawea dollar Proof is smooth or plain.
The Sacagawea obverse was designed by Glenna Goodacre. When Goodacre passed away at the age of 80 in 2020, she was widely acknowledged as a highly skilled artist and sculptor. Before her 1999 design for the Sacagawea dollar, Goodacre was known for creating the Vietnam Women’s Memorial on the National Mall in DC and the Irish Memorial in Philadelphia. A more in-depth bio of the designer can be found here.
As a sculptor and engraver for the US Mint, Thomas D. Rogers was responsible for the design of several modern US coins. After joining the Philadelphia Mint in 1991, he designed the obverses of the commemorative 1996 silver dollar for the Smithsonian’s 150th anniversary of the original reverse of the American Platinum Eagle in 1997. He later went on to design the reverses of the Massachusetts, Maryland, and South Carolina 50 State quarters. Rogers retired from the Mint in 2001.
|Year Of Issue:||2001|
|Denomination:||One Dollar (USD)|
|Mint Mark:||S (San Francisco)|
|Alloy:||88.5% Copper, 6% Zinc, 3.5% Manganese, and 2% Nickel|
|OBV Designer||Glenna Goodacre|
|REV Designer||Thomas D. Rogers, Sr.|