Susan B Anthony – Why is this Women’s Coin so Unpopular?

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The Susan B. Anthony dollar coin had all the makings of a raging success. So what happened and why did it fail to gain widespread acceptance? I give you in this article my opinions on this. Despite all the reasons why this coin should have been wildly popular, let’s explore why the opposite happened.

Without a doubt, you can blame the U.S. Mint.

Here’s a few outright mistakes made by the U.S. Mint in my opinion.

Size Matters. Let’s “face it”, it’s too small to be a dollar in the first place. Especially when you consider that a HALF DOLLAR from the same year is so much larger yet worth half as much! How does that make any sense? This might have made sense long ago when the metal composition of a coin was a large part it’s monetary value, as in the case of a pre-1965 silver dime and any copper cent. It easy to understand and appreciate why the dimes are smaller. It’s still that way today (**dimes are now made from copper, and cents are made with zinc a less valuable metal). Too small to be a dollar .. but the Susan B. Anthony coin was also too close to the size of a quarter. Many Susan B’s ended up in stuck in the quarter slots of coin machines and no cash register drawers had a place for them. The coin was doomed to fail simply because our commerce infrastructure which normally handles coins very well, was not suited to process these coins. Unfortunately, the U.S. Mint did not stop there. They went on to make several other blunders in my opinion.

Design Matters. Anthony’s portrait shows her in much too serious of a demeanor. Is Susan angry about something? Maybe it’s this portrait she’s upset about! It’s possible if schedules were tight the US Mint Chief Engraver at the time, Frank Gasparro, was in a hurry with the design. It’s hard to know but its not very inspiring.

Around the edge of the obverse design is a combination of 13 stars inside a faceted circular field somewhat like a coin within a coin. Nobody quite understood it. It’s certainly unique I will give it that. For some anyway, it lacks eye-appeal. Finally, the reverse design is a copy of the Eisenhower Dollar reverse design. Hmmm. Maybe that was done to help reinforce it’s identity as a dollar. Hard to say, but it seems that there were many other more appropriate concepts available to celebrate Susan B. Anthony. The Moon Landing is perfectly suited to the Eisenhower Dollar since it was President Dwight D. Eisenhower who started NASA. By comparison its a complete miss not to have some relevant design on the reverse of the Susan-B dollars dedicated to the celebration of her achievements working in women’s rights! There’s nothing to even suggest the message which the coin was supposed to convey.

Ike vs. Susan – Reverse Designs

Timing is Everything. It was 1979 and The Women’s Rights Movement was in full swing and this was a perfect time to really seize the moment and MAKE IT BIG! That was the very reason for the coin’s minting in the first place. Did you know that the Susan B. Anthony Dollar was the first U.S. Coin to ever bear the image of a real-life female figure of historical significance? (sorry… Lady Liberty doesn’t count since she represents the idea of American Liberty and is not a real person) This new coin should have been sung from the mountain-tops as a great moment for women in American history.. but instead there was a whimper of announcements and little to no promotion. And women ignored it.

COLLECTORS have always LOVED the Susan B. Anthony dollar. Still today they have a distinct following. It’s a short series (1979 – 1981) and then for one final year in 1999. According to the “Official Red Book of Coins” there were no 1981 Susan B’s minted for circulation purposes. It’s not terribly hard to complete a collection of Susan B’s, but getting all of them in top choice conditions will not be easy!

This lonely little coin never made it to the big time in normal pocket-change circulation. The mint is still trying… (e.g. Sacagawea Dollars, Women’s Quarters, and U.S. Mint Silver Medals are blowing up everywhere). Glad to see the mint has learned something.

Below are some details about the changing composition of dimes and small cents. This demonstrates it is still quite logical that dimes are smaller than pennies based on their metal content.

Thanks for reading. Your comments are welcome !

** Footnotes

Dime Composition Changes

  • 1796 – 1837 .8924 pure silver
  • 1837 – 1964 .900 pure silver
  • 1965 – to date .750 pure copper

Small Cent Composition Changes

  • 1856 – 1864 .880 pure copper
  • 1864 – 1942 .950 pure copper
  • 1943 only Wartime Penny aka “The Steel Penny” composition 2.70 grams of zinc coated steel
  • 1944 – 1958 .950 pure copper
  • 1959 – 1962 .950 pure copper (with tin and zinc)
  • 1962 – 1982 .950 pure copper (with zinc)
  • 1982 to date .992 pure Zinc (with .008 copper)


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