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The Historic Design Selection Process

Never in the history of the United States had the public played such a unique role in picking a design concept for a circulating coin. The Golden Dollar's journey was as unique as the journey of discovery it commemorates.

Dollar Coin Design Advisory Committee Appointed

The Dollar Coin Design Advisory Committee (DCDAC) included a member of Congress, a university president, the president of the American Numismatic Society, the under secretary of the Smithsonian Institute, a sculptor, and an architect. United States Mint Director Philip N. Diehl chaired the committee in a non-voting capacity.

In June 1998, the DCDAC convened in Philadelphia. It deliberated about the design concept in a public session. Outside input factored heavily into the Committee’s decisions. The Committee listened to 17 design concept presentations from members of the public, as well as to numerous mail, phone, and e-mail messages submitted by the public.

On June 9, 1998, the committee recommended that the dollar coin bear the image of Sacagawea, the Native American woman who accompanied Lewis and Clark on their exploration of the American West.

The Public Reviews the Designs

The artists received few guidelines but were told to be sensitive to cultural authenticity in creating an image of Sacagawea. They were also requested to create reverse eagle designs reflecting peace and freedom. After receiving designs from 23 invited artists, the United States Mint again turned to the public for input on the final choice.

In November and December of 1998, the United States Mint invited representatives of the Native American community, numismatists, artists, educators, historians, members of Congress, United States Mint and Treasury officers and employees, and other members of the public to review and comment on all designs received. Using these comments as a guide, the United States Mint narrowed the field to six obverse and seven reverse designs.

Design Field Narrowed to Seven

The United States Mint tapped into the power of the Internet. It published the design finalists on its web site and received a never-imagined response: Over 120,000 emails and 2,000 letters and faxes.

In addition, the United States Mint shared the designs with Native American tribal leaders and other representatives, and with members of Congress. The United States Mint also conducted focus groups with representatives of the public and the numismatic community. In addition, historians advised the United States Mint on the historical merits of each finalist design.

Using feedback and information gathered from these sources, the United States Mint narrowed the field further to seven final designs, three obverse and four reverse, before submission to the Commission of Fine Arts on December 17, 1998.

Choosing the Final Design

The seven final designs were forwarded to the Commission of Fine Arts, which provided its recommendation to the United States Mint. After much review of all the input received to date, the United States Mint presented the final designs to the Secretary of the Treasury. On May 4, 1999, the United States Mint unveiled the selected design at the White House.