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Sacagawea dollars — otherwise known as ‘the golden dollar’ when first released in 2000 — feature the young Shoshone Native American woman Sacagawea and her infant son, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau.
Sacagawea’s significance in American history is that of guide and translator for much of the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804 and 1805.
Glenna Goodacre designed the obverse portrait featuring the young Sacagawea.
About The Sacagawea Dollar
Sacagawea dollars first came about as the demand for dollar coins rose during the mid-1990s.
The United States $1 Coin Act of 1997 authorized the production of a new dollar coin.
By the end of 1999, most the public became aware of the highly publicized image of Sacagawea carrying her son.
In fact, there was a nationwide promotion for the Sacagawea dollar. Even Cheerios chimed in on the action, offering a Sacagawea dollar coin in certain select boxes of the beloved cereal.
So Why Aren’t We Able to Find Many Sacagawea Dollars In Pocket Change?
As you’ve noticed by now, most people aren’t using the Sacagawea dollar in day-to-day transactions. Yet, the golden dollar was supposed to be a revolutionary coin that would prompt Americans to use a dollar coin.
So what happened?
Lots of factors got in the way of Americans using a dollar coin.
Probably the most important issues are:
- The dollar bill was still being made.
- Creatures of habit we are, we generally opted to use the dollar bill over the dollar coin since we still had the choice.
- Many people don’t like the heavier weight of the dollar coin versus the dollar bill.
- Too many coin-operated machines can’t accept dollar coins.
- Some cash tills and other coin containers and holders don’t have a convenient spot for dollar coins.
Nevertheless, the U.S. Treasury still continued trying to make the case that dollar coins were the way to go — and for good reason. It’s cheaper, in the long run, to make dollar coins rather than dollar bills.
Think of it this way:
- It costs around only 12 cents to make a dollar coin that lasts 30 years.
- We spend about 3 cents to produce dollar bills that have a lifespan of about 18 months.
See the benefit there in that math equation? Yep, we’d save hundreds of millions of dollars over a period of several years if we switched solely to making dollar coins.
What Makes The ‘Golden Dollar’ Golden
Curious about what goes into making a golden dollar look that way? It’s a combination of a few metals, mainly copper.
- 88.5% copper
- 6% zinc
- 3.5% manganese
- 2% nickel
Quite a brew, huh?
How Many Sacagawea Dollars Have Been Made?
The bulk of the mintage of the Sacagawea dollar was predominately from the coin’s first 2 years: 2000 and 2001. By 2002, the U.S. Mint began reducing the number of Sacagawea dollars being made. By 2003, the coin was in production virtually just for the sake of inclusion in coin collectors’ coin sets.
Here’s a look at the approximate mintages from the first 5 years of the Sacagawea dollar, not including proofs:
- 2000 1.3 billion (yes, billion with a ‘B.’)
- 2001 133 million
- 2002 7.6 million
- 2003 6.2 million
- 2004 5.3 million
The Value Of Sacagawea Dollars
Though you don’t probably don’t see Sacagawea dollars often, nothing about them is rare, and there are really no ‘valuable’ Sacagawea dollars, except for those which have been certified by coin grading services and have a perfect or nearly perfect grade.
Any you find in circulation are worth just $1. Even those in typical uncirculated grades have a value of about $1.50 to $2.
There are 5,000 special Sacagawea dollars dated for the year 2000 that were given to Glenna Goodacre as payment for her design contribution. These have a shiny finish and are worth about $300 apiece.
What’s Up With The Sacagawea Dollar Lately?
Beginning in 2009, the U.S. Mint removed the flying eagle reverse on the Sacagawea dollar and has replaced it with designs that will change annually until 2016. Constituting the Native American Dollar Coin series, these special reverse designs honor various aspects of Native American culture, tradition, and history.
The Sacagawea design remains unchanged on the obverse.
I’m the Coin Editor here at TheFunTimesGuide. My love for coins began when I was 11 years old. I primarily collect and study U.S. coins produced during the 20th century. I’m a member of the American Numismatic Association (ANA) and the Numismatic Literary Guild (NLG) and have won multiple awards from the NLG for my work as a coin journalist. I’m also the editor at the Florida United Numismatists Club (FUN Topics magazine), and author of Images of America: The United States Mint in Philadelphia (a book that explores the colorful history of the Philadelphia Mint). I’ve contributed hundreds of articles for various coin publications including COINage, The Numismatist, Numismatic News, Coin Dealer Newsletter, Coin Values, and CoinWeek. I’ve authored nearly 1,000 articles here at The Fun Times Guide to Coins (many of them with over 50K shares), and I welcome your coin questions in the comments below!