The Susan B. Anthony Dollar Coin

A new dollar coin was released to the public on July 2, 1979. It featured Susan B. Anthony, a pioneer of women’s voting rights who lived from 1820 to 1906.

The Susan B. Anthony Dollar coin was smaller in diameter than its predecessors, midway between the quarter and half dollar, and was intended to facilitate use of coin-operated vending machines.

The obverse carried a portrait of the famous suffragette. The reverse depicts an American eagle landing on the moon, very similar to the reverse of the Eisenhower Dollar.

Federal officials thought the Susan B. Anthony Dollar coin would circulate better because of its smaller size, but the opposite is what happened. The public rejected the Anthony Dollar primarily because it was easily confused with a quarter.

Between 1979 and 1980, the Mint produced nearly 850 million Susan B. Anthony dollar coins. Since there was little demand, hundreds of millions of the Anthony dollars were tucked away in government vaults. In 1981, only about 10 million were coined, for inclusion in collector sets only. After that, the Susan Anthony Dollar took a long vacation.

Susan B. Anthony Dollar coin
Coin Photos courtesy of Ira & Larry Goldberg Coins & Collectibles, Inc., Beverly Hills, CA

Vending machines became more sophisticated later on in the 1980s and into the 1990s, capable of accepting paper bills greater than one dollar. At first, change was given in quarters, but eventually, more and more machines returned change in the form of Susan B. Anthony Dollar coins. Also, metropolitan mass transit systems along the eastern seaboard converted their systems to give and take the Anthony Dollar.

This newfound demand slowly drained the Treasury's supply of Anthony Dollars. By 1998, federal authorities feared their dollar coin stockpiles would be exhausted before the new Sacagawea Dollar was rolled out in 2000. For this reason, the Susan Anthony Dollar made an encore performance in 1999. Over 40 million of the "Susie B's" were struck for circulation in 1999.

Susan B. Anthony is the first woman, other than the symbolical Miss Liberty, to ever appear on United States money. She began campaigning to advance women's rights in the 1850s. At that time, women could not own property or enter professional fields on par with men. Worst of all, women were denied the right to vote. Anthony's style soon earned her a widespread reputation as an inspirational advocate of social justice. For the next half century, Anthony tirelessly traveled the nation giving speeches and winning allies in her quest to convince lawmakers that women deserved full citizenship privileges.

Anthony was arrested for casting a vote in the presidential election held on November 5, 1872. At the trial, she gave her famous "On Women's Right to Vote" speech, which asserted that her vote in the 1872 election was not a crime but the legal right of a U.S. citizen. Nevertheless, she was found guilty and fined $100. Anthony was formally pardoned for this act by President Donald Trump on August 18, 2020.

Susan B Anthony Chasing President Cleveland

Suffragette Susan B. Anthony

The cartoon above has President Grover Cleveland, carrying book "What I know about women's clubs," being chased with a "Women's Suffrage" umbrella by Susan B. Anthony, as Uncle Sam chuckles in background. The cartoon was created by Charles Bartholomew sometime between 1892 and 1896.  By then, Anthony and her crusade for social justice was recognized throughout the world.

Image courtesy of America's Library.

For sixteen years, Anthony petitioned to speak before Congress on behalf of her cause, and for sixteen years, she was denied. Growing weary of her persistence, Washington lawmakers finally relented on March 8, 1884, when she appeared before them to urge passage of a Constitutional amendment granting women the right to vote. The amendment was soundly rejected.

Anthony retired from public life in 1900. She went to her death six years later, forever denied legal access to the voting booth.

Despite her death, the suffrage movement lived on. The culmination of Anthony's lifework was fulfilled on August 26, 1920, with the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. Better known as the "Anthony Amendment", the new law read in part: "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex." Today, women's voting rights are often taken for granted, but it was through the hard work and dedication of Susan B. Anthony and others like her that this precious right was won.

There are no Susan B. Anthony Dollar key dates, but there are a few varieties that are scarce and worth collecting. Try finding a 1979-P “Near Date, Wide Rim” variety by searching through rolls. Good luck. In the 1979-S and 1981-S Proof sets, the majority of the dollar coins bear a filled-in “S” mint mark, resembling a blob rather than a letter. Coins with this characteristic are called Type I dollars. The name is carried over to the Proof set itself, hence it is called a Type I Proof set. Type II dollars have a clear “S” mint mark and are not nearly as prevalent. Interestingly, 1981-S Type II dollars have doubled in value in recent years.

Here’s something else to think about: More and more, picky Anthony Dollar collectors are looking for coins with Full Talons, much in the same way as Franklin Half Dollar collectors seek examples with Full Bell Lines. Full Talons are the result of a superior strike. Most of the time, because of a weak strike or clogged dies, the eagle’s talons lack sharp definition. Collectors look for talons that are fully separated and rounded, with no weakness. The best Full Talon examples also show the folds of skin on the toes. The “FT” designation is not yet applied by any of the major grading services, but it is increasingly significant. Should this characteristic become critical in determining trading value of Susan B. Anthony Dollar coins, we could someday see it recognized by the grading services.

Don't make the mistake of buying overgraded stock. If the Anthony Dollar were to ever generate excitement across a wide swath of the numismatic community, thus triggering much higher prices for the relatively rare varieties in the highest grades, you'll be very pleased you had the foresight to be selective when prices were lower. As always, deal with reputable sellers. A very important layer of security for buyers of high grade Anthony Dollars is to concentrate on coins that have been certified as such by one of the leading services in the industry: PCGS, NGC, ICG, or ANACS.

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