The Dollar is the United States 100-cent coin. The U.S. Mint first produced dollar coins in 1794, and just like other circulating coins at the time, it was made of silver. Nowadays, the U.S. Mint makes most dollar coins for collecting since its usage is less popular than dollar bills (paper money).
The Dollar coin has featured many motifs throughout the years. It has depicted different effigies of Lady Liberty, representing freedom and enlightenment. In 1971, the Mint changed the dollar coin to show Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th American president. Later, in 1979, the Dollar coin changed again to honor Susan B. Anthony.
Currently, the Dollar coin features Sacagawea, a Native American woman from the Lemhi Shoshone tribe who helped Lewis and Clark in their expedition through the Louisiana Territory. The U.S. Mint unveiled these golden dollars in the year 2000. Despite their name, these coins are not crafted from gold. Instead, they are composed of a three-layer clad structure consisting of manganese brass with a copper core.
The designs have also changed as part of different coin programs listed below:
- Sacagawea Golden Dollar, depicting a Native American woman, Sacagawea, who is on the dollar coin together with her son, Jean-Baptiste, on the obverse (2000 to date);
- Presidential One Dollar Coins, this program showed former U.S. presidents on the obverse (2007 to date);
- Native American One Dollar Coins, which celebrate important Native Americans on the reverse but still featuring Sacagawea on the obverse (2009 to present);
- American Innovation One Dollar Coins, featuring different inventions on the reverse side (2018 to date, and planned up to 2032).
This article answers the question "Who is on the dollar coin?" Continue reading to learn more about each of the personalities that have been honored by the U.S. Mint.
In general, dollar coins serve two primary purposes. Firstly, they can be circulating coins, meaning the U.S. Mint produced and distributed them to American financial institutions through the Federal Reserve. These coins are intended for use as everyday currency, allowing individuals to exchange them for goods and services.
Secondly, dollar coins can be commemorative in nature. These special coins are created by the Mint specifically for collectors and are sold as numismatic items. Commemorative dollar coins are designed to honor individuals, events, or significant themes.
In addition to these circulating and modern commemorative dollar coins, the U.S. Mint also produces dollar coins made of gold or silver content. These precious metal coins, often referred to as bullion coins, are generally worth more than their face value based on their metal content and are sought after by investors and collectors alike. One example is the American Silver Eagle, which has a face value of $1, but because it contains 1 Troy oz of .999 fine silver, it is worth over twenty times that value.
Flowing Hair Silver Dollar
The Flowing Hair design appeared on the first United States Silver Dollar coins in 1794, but only lasted until mid-1795, when it was replaced for the Draped Bust design.
This coin featured an image of Miss Liberty with flowing hair on the obverse with the inscriptions LIBERTY and the year below. The reverse depicts an eagle perched on a wreath, and the inscription UNITED STATES OF AMERICA surrounds the image.
Being the first one-dollar coin in the United States, Flowing Hair Dollars are highly coveted by numismatics and collectors, and are among the most valuable silver dollars ever produced.
Draped Bust Silver Dollar
The 1795 Draped Bust silver dollar marks the introduction of this design in American coinage, and it continued to be used for the dollar coins until 1804 (business strikes ceased after 1803).
The obverse of the coin features a portrait of Lady Liberty, depicted with flowing hair that is loosely tied with a ribbon. She is adorned with a delicate and intricately draped bust that gives the design its name.
The reverse side of these valuable coins showcase a bald eagle with outstretched wings, holding an olive branch and arrows, symbolizing peace and readiness for defense.
Seated Liberty Dollar
The Seated Liberty Silver Dollar coins were issued from 1836 to 1873.
The design depicts Miss Liberty seated on a rock. She holds a liberty cap on a pole in her left hand and a shield inscribed with the word "LIBERTY" in her right hand. Above her, thirteen stars shine, while the date is positioned below.
On the reverse side, an eagle is portrayed perched on an olive branch, clutching three arrows. The words "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" appear above the eagle, with "ONE DOL." inscribed below it.
The Trade dollar was introduced in 1873 as a response to the demand for a coin that could compete with the Mexican "dollar" in international transactions, especially in the Orient.
The obverse design depicts Miss Liberty seated on a bale of merchandise, her right hand holding a branch, her left hand holding a ribbon inscribed “LIBERTY", a sheaf of wheat behind, and the sea in front. “IN GOD WE TRUST” appears at the bottom just above the date. Thirteen stars surround the upper portion of the coin.
The reverse depicts an eagle holding three arrows and a branch, with the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM on a ribbon above, and the inscriptions "420 GRAINS", 900 FINE", below. The inscription UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and TRADE DOLLAR surrounds the design.
Trade dollars can be readily found in grades ranging from Fine to Almost Uncirculated, often with chop marks from circulation in the Orient.
Morgan Silver Dollars
The Coinage Act of 1873 debased silver from the U.S. Dollar, leading to a temporary ending of the silver dollar. From 1873 to 1878, trade dollars were made, but they were mainly used in other countries and not accepted as legal tender in America.
Because the economy was doing poorly in the 1870s, and to satisfy silver suppliers in the western part of the country, Congress passed the Bland-Allison Act in 1878. This law made the U.S. government buy large quantities of silver bullion and turn it into silver dollar coins. This brought back the dollar in the form of the Morgan Silver dollars.
Morgan Dollars were continuously minted from 1878 to 1904 and later in 1921. These iconic silver coins were produced at various U.S. mints, including Philadelphia, New Orleans, San Francisco, Denver, and Carson City. With the exception of Philadelphia, all the mints placed mint marks on the reverse of the coins, just below the ribbon bow of the wreath.
However, a significant portion of these coins were not extensively circulated as currency due to their size and weight, which made them less convenient for everyday transactions. Instead, silver certificates were issued and used as a more practical form of currency.
Within the series, there are key dates that hold particular significance to coin collection. Notable examples include the 1889-CC, 1893-S, and 1895 (available only as proof). On the other hand, certain dates like the 1895-O are considered condition-rarities, commonly found in lower grades but exceptionally scarce in higher grades.
Peace silver dollars, designed by Anthony DeFrancisci, were first minted in December 1921 after a large production of Morgan dollars in the same year. The idea for this coin, which was intended to commemorate the peace after World War I, came from Farran Zerbe. Zerbe, a former President of the ANA (American Numismatic Association) from 1908 to 1910, was a passionate promoter of numismatics during the early 20th century.
The Peace Dollars features the profile of Miss Liberty facing left, wearing a crown-like headpiece resembling the spikes on the Statue of Liberty. Above the profile is the word "LIBERTY," while below it are "IN GOD WE TRUST" and the date.
On the reverse side of the Peace silver dollars, there is an eagle resting on a rock, holding a laurel branch. Below the eagle is the word "PEACE." Above the eagle are the inscriptions "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" and "E PLURIBUS UNUM," and slightly below the center is the phrase "ONE DOLLAR." Rays of an invisible sun radiate from the lower right.
The Congress enacted legislation in 1970 granting authorization for the creation of a new one-dollar coin to honor the passing of General Dwight David Eisenhower and commemorate the historic achievement of mankind's first moon landing on July 20, 1969.
The obverse of the coin showcases a left-facing bust of Eisenhower, while the reverse replicates the insignia of the Apollo 11 mission, excluding the mission's name. "Ike" dollars intended for circulation were composed of cupro-nickel.
Additionally, special Uncirculated and Proof editions containing 40% silver were minted and made available to collectors at a premium price.
Susan B. Anthony Dollar Coin
The Susan B. Anthony Dollar coins, or Anthony coins, were a significant milestone as they marked the first time a woman appeared on a U.S. coin intended for everyday transactions. They were introduced to replace the Eisenhower Dollar and produced between 1979 and 1981, with another minting in 1999.
The Susan B. Anthony coin was created to pay tribute to Susan B. Anthony, a prominent leader in the fight for women's suffrage.
On the reverse side, the Anthony dollars feature an image of an American eagle landing on the Moon, which is a modified version of the Apollo 11 symbol that was originally used on the Eisenhower Dollar.
To honor her significant contributions to the Lewis and Clark expedition and her representation of Native American history and culture, Sacagawea was chosen as the central figure on the Sacagawea dollar coin. The coin was first minted in the year 2000 and continues to be produced today.
On the obverse side of the Golden Dollar, Sacagawea is depicted in a three-quarter profile with her infant son tied by a drape in her back. The inscription LIBERTY is above her head, IN GOD WE TRUST on the left, and the mint year on the right-face of the design.
In a departure from traditional coin design, she gazes directly at the holder. Glenna Goodacre, the artist behind the obverse, incorporated the notable feature of Sacagawea's large, dark eyes as described in Shoshone legends. To create the portrayal, Goodacre used Randy'L He-dow Teton, a contemporary Shoshone college student, as her model.
Created to complement the obverse design perfectly, the chosen reverse side showcases a majestic eagle in flight, surrounded by a ring of 17 stars. These 17 stars symbolize each state in the Union during the period of the 1804 Lewis and Clark expedition.
Lewis & Clark's Expedition
The Lewis and Clark Expedition was carried out between 1804 and 1806 and was a significant U.S. military expedition that President Thomas Jefferson requested himself.
Led by Captain Meriwether Lewis and Lieutenant William Clark, its purpose was to explore the vast and uncharted regions of the Pacific Northwest acquired in the Louisiana Purchase.
Sacagawea, a member of the Shoshone tribe, served as a crucial interpreter and traveled vast distances through untamed wilderness alongside the Lewis and Clark Expedition from 1804 to 1806. Her remarkable journey commenced from the Mandan-Hidatsa villages in the Dakotas, extending all the way to the unexplored reaches of the Pacific Northwest.
This ambitious expedition is a milestone of American exploration. Sacagawea's contributions were invaluable to the success of the expedition, as her knowledge and linguistic skills facilitated communication and navigation through unfamiliar lands.
Sacagawea's presence remains a testament to the diverse and indispensable contributions of Indigenous peoples in the exploration of early America.
Starting in 2009, the U.S. Mint initiated the production and release of dollar coins as part of the Native American One Dollar Coin Program. These coins showcase reverse designs that honor the significant contributions of Native American tribes and individuals to the history and growth of the United States.
This new dollar coin series builds upon the foundation of the Sacagawea Golden Dollar, which was previously introduced in 2000.
The obverse design retains the central figure of the Shoshone Native American, Sacagawea, carrying her infant son, Jean-Baptiste or "Pomp". The design was first produced in 2000 with the inscriptions LIBERTY and IN GOD WE TRUST.
The design on the back (reverse) of the coin changes every year to honor an important contribution from Native American tribes or individuals. It has the inscriptions $1 and UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
The Secretary of the Treasury chooses the reverse designs for the Native American One Dollar Coin in consultation with the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, the Congressional Native American Caucus of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Commission of Fine Arts, and the National Congress of American Indians.
The designs are also reviewed by the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee with input from the public.
Similar to Presidential One Dollar Coins, Native American One Dollar Coins have a unique smooth edge, are golden coins in color, and include edge-lettering of the year, mint mark, and the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM.
These may often be mistaken for a gold dollar coin, but the golden color is actually from its composition. It was the first dollar made of pure copper sandwiched by an outer layer of manganese brass, which is a yellow alloy of copper and zinc. Over time, the color of brass naturally deepens, resulting in an antique finish for the coins.
Manganese brass composition:
- 77% copper
- 12% zinc
- 7% manganese
- 4% nickel
Golden Dollar's overall composition:
- 88.5% copper
- 6% zinc
- 3.5% manganese
- 2% nickel
Underground Railroad - Ohio - Source
Higgins Boat - Louisiana - Source
Automobile Industry - Indiana - Source
First Human Lung Transplant - Mississippi - Source
The United States Mint American Innovation One Dollar Coin Program is a multi-year program created to honor innovation and innovators of each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the five U. S. territories: Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands.
Four new dollar coins with distinctive reverse designs will be released each year from 2019 to 2032 in the order the states ratified the Constitution of the United States or were admitted to the Union.
Depicted on the obverse of the coin is the Statue of Lady Liberty. The obverse design will remain the same throughout the duration of the issue until its completion in 2032. Only the reverse design will change upon issuance of new coinage each year after the Treasury Department selects the final design.
After all the states are represented, coins will be released for the District of Columbia and the territories.
Congress allows the creation of special coins that celebrate important people, places, events, and institutions in America. These coins are considered legal tender. The United States Mint makes a limited number of each coin, so they are only available for a short time.
In 2007 the United States Mint began honoring different Presidents in American history by circulating coins under the Presidential Dollar Coin Program. Under this program, four Presidential Dollar coins will be issued per year. The designs featured the presidents' profiles in the order they served and were released for circulation for a period of three months.
The first ones represented were presidents Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison. From 2007 to 2016, the Mint issued four Presidential One Dollar Coins per year, each with a common reverse design featuring a striking rendition of the Statue of Liberty.
Most Recently Issued Presidential Dollar Coins
George H.W. Bush (1989–1993)
Ronald Reagan (1981–1989)
Gerald R. Ford (1974–1977)
Richard M. Nixon (1969–1974)
In addition to President Eisenhower and the ones honored in the Presidential Dollars program, several other U.S. presidents have also been commemorated on various denominations of American currency. Let's explore some of them:
Abraham Lincoln - The iconic 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, is prominently displayed on the penny, the one-cent coin. Introduced in 1909, the Lincoln cent showcases a profile of Lincoln on the front and the Lincoln Memorial on the back.
Thomas Jefferson - Recognized for his role as the primary author of the Declaration of Independence and the third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson appears on the nickel, the five-cent coin. The Jefferson nickel, first minted in 1938, features a portrait of Jefferson on the front and Monticello, his Virginia estate, on the back.
Franklin D. Roosevelt - As the 32nd President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt's likeness adorns the dime, the ten-cent coin. The Roosevelt dime was introduced in 1946, replacing the Mercury dime, and showcases a profile of Roosevelt on the front and an image of a torch, an olive branch, and an oak branch on the back.
George Washington - The Revolutionary War General and Founding Father, George Washington is honored on the Quarter Dollar coin. His portrait graces the front, while the back has depicted various coinage programs from the U.S. Mint.
John F. Kennedy - The World War II hero and 34th President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, is portrayed on the Kennedy half-dollar. Minted from 1971 to 1978, this larger-sized fifty-cent coin showcases Kennedy on the front, and an adaptation of the Apollo 11 mission insignia appears on the back to commemorate the United States' moon landing.
Such a plethora of personalities who are on the dollar coin allows us to appreciate the nation's heritage, the evolution of its currency, and the significant role coins play within society. By studying coins, we uncover the narratives of the past and gain a deeper understanding of our collective identity as a nation.
They are not mere objects but guardians of stories.