Susan B. Anthony Becomes First Woman to be on a Circulating US Coin

Susan B. Anthony was the first woman to be honored by having her likeness appear on a circulating United States coin.

In 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed the Susan B. Anthony Dollar Coin Act into law (Public Law 95-447). This law amended the Coinage Act of 1965, changing the size, weight, and design of the one-dollar coin. On July 2, 1979, the U. S. Mint officially released the Susan B. Anthony coin in Rochester, NY, the home of Susan B. Anthony during the most politically active years of her life. In 1979, 757,813,744 coins were produced. Additional coins were dated 1980, 1981 (numanistic items only), and 1999. Ultimately, the United States Mint produced 888,842,452 Susan B. Anthony coins for circulation.

In 1997, Congress passed the United States $1 Coin Act (Public Law 104-124, Sec. 4), replacing the Susan B. Anthony dollar with the golden dollar coin. The golden color of this new coin, combined with a smoother edge and wider border, helps to more easily differentiate it from a quarter. The act also authorized the Secretary of Treasury to continue to mint Susan B. Anthony coins until such time as the production of new golden coins was ready. In 1999, the final 41,368,000 Susan B. Anthony coins were minted. The coins continue in circulation today.

The Susan B. Anthony dollar is a United States coin minted from 1979 to 1981, and again in 1999. It depicts women's suffrage campaigner Susan B. Anthony. The reverse depicts an eagle flying above the moon (with the Earth in the background), a design adapted from the Apollo 11 mission insignia that was also present on the previously issued Eisenhower Dollar.

Although it is round, the Susan B. Anthony dollar may appear 11-sided, due to an 11-sided rim bordering the edge of both sides. The reverse commemorates the Apollo 11 moon landing with an image of the mission insignia. The 11 sided shape matches the Apollo 11 Goodwill Messages that enclosed a silicon wafer left on the moon. The original design called for the coin itself to be a hendecagon, but vending machine manufacturers protested this plan, claiming that available vending machine technology would require extensive (and expensive) retooling to accommodate the irregular-shaped coin originally proposed.

Because of their similar size and color, it was found to be very easy to mistake the coin for a quarter. The originally-planned hendecagon-shaped edge, which would have distinguished it from the quarter, had been replaced with a depiction of an hendecagon and the same reeded edge as the quarter, thus compounding the confusion. The Anthony dollar was disparagingly referred to as the "Carter quarter" or the "Anthony quarter." 888,842,452 Anthony dollars were produced for circulation (Additional dollars were produced as numismatic items).

The coin was released July 2, 1979. A $1 postage stamp, Scott #1612, was released nationwide on the same day, allowing philatelic/numismatic first day souvenirs to be produced.

While a large quantity were produced in 1979, they failed to circulate well (despite the slogan "Carry three for Susan B.") and a minimal number were produced in 1980. In 1981, none were produced for circulation, but instead were produced for numismatic sets marketed by the Mint. Many of those mint sets have been broken up, and it is not unusual to find 1981-dated Anthony dollars in circulation.

At the end of production, the Treasury was left with hundreds of millions of the coins in its vaults.

In the 1980s and into the 1990s, vending machines (especially transit and postal machines) began to take higher denomination notes, when previously they had been effectively limited to dollar notes. While change could be given in quarters and smaller coins, more and more such machines began to give change in dollar coins. This led to an increased call on the Treasury's supply. By 1998, the Treasury's stock of dollar coins was near exhaustion. The Mint lacked the legal authority to change the design of the coin, and it was not deemed possible to release the new Sacagawea dollar earlier than 2000. Accordingly, after the longest hiatus for the same design of a circulating coin in U.S. history (one year longer than for the Morgan silver dollar), the coin was restruck in 1999.

Since the Sacagawea dollar's 2000 introduction, the Susan B. Anthony dollar circulated along with it—the two coins have identical metallic signatures to vending machines. The Presidential $1 Coin Act of 2005, which initially proposed taking all remaining Susan B. Anthony dollars out of circulation, merely directed the Secretary of Treasury to take a deeper look into the matter and report back to Congress sometime in 2006.