Sacagawea Golden Dollar Frequently Asked Questions

How is the Golden Dollar different from the Susan B. Anthony Dollar?

The Golden Dollar coin, as required by the United States $1 Coin Act of 1997 (Public Law 105-124, Sec. 4), has a golden color, has the same diameter as the Susan B. Anthony Dollar Coin, has a smooth edge (in contrast to the reeded, or grooved, edge of the Susan B. Anthony Dollar Coin), and has a wider border than other current U.S. circulating coinage. The use of a gold-colored alloy, the smooth edge, and the wider border all ensure the Golden Dollar coin is easily distinguishable from other coins for both the sighted and the seeing-impaired.


How does the Sacagawea dollar’s finish change after being in circulation over time?

The different hues of the Golden Dollars now circulating are the result of the manganese brass contained in the outer layer of the new coins. Like any brass, its color will eventually become darker, giving your coins an antique finish. As the coins are handled frequently, the darker “patina” may wear off the high points of the coin, leaving golden-colored highlights that accent the darker background around the border, lettering and other less exposed areas. The brighter, brass highlights, in contrast with the darker background, accentuate the profile and add a dimension of depth to the depiction of Sacagawea and her child.


When did the Golden Dollar first appear in circulation?

Golden Dollars were released into circulation on January 27, 2000.


Why did the United States Mint decide to use the “g” spelling of Sacagawea?

Historical records use conflicting spellings of her name. Based on several highly regarded contemporary works, the Mint decided to use the “Sacagawea” spelling. To quote one work: “Translated, her name means ‘Bird Woman,’ and in their attempts to spell the Indians words, Lewis and Clark used variations of ‘Sah-ca-gah-we-ah’ and ‘Sah-kah-gar-we-a.’ (In 1814, when a version of the journals appeared, an editor changed the spelling to Sacajawea, which was the preferred spelling until recently, when most historians and official publications reverted to Sacagawea.)”

Dayton Duncan and Ken Burns Lewis & Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery, An Illustrated History. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997


Some have suggested that the Shoshone carried their young on cradleboards facing backwards. Is the United States Mint’s depiction on the Golden Dollar accurate?

The issue of how Sacagawea would have carried her baby is one that we at the Mint spent a great deal of time examining. We consulted numerous historians and Native American representatives on this issue, and are comfortable with the historical accuracy of sculptor Glenna Goodacre’s depiction. Although the artist depicted Jean Baptiste facing forward on his mother’s shoulder, partly for artistic reasons, (the palette for the new coin is very small, and it was not artistically practical to depict the child facing backwards on a cradleboard) the artist believes, and we agree, that as a matter of convenience, there were times that Sacagawea would have wrapped her baby up and carried him on her back. There is strong historical support for this conclusion. According to Irving Anderson of the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation, the Lewis and Clark journals are very vague in documenting how Sacagawea attended to Jean Baptiste. In a June 29, 1805, entry, Lewis refers to “the bier in which the woman carries her child.” No physical description of the “bier” is provided, but there is a reference elsewhere to mosquito netting as a “bier.” Further, Sacagawea lived among the Hidatsa beginning around the age of 11, and although it is not conclusive that Sacagawea adopted Hidatsa customs, she could reasonably have learned to carry Jean Baptiste slung from her shoulder, as was the Hidatsa custom.

Finally, we spoke with Shoshone representatives who relayed folk legend that say Sacagawea may have lost her cradleboard along the journey with Lewis and Clark. In any case, historians and other consultants concluded that it is reasonable to assume that at some point on her journey, Sacagawea carried her son as Goodacre has depicted.


Why doesn’t the United States Mint remove the Susan B. Anthony dollar from circulation?

The United States Mint is prevented from removing the Susan B. Anthony dollar from circulation due to legislation. The United States Dollar Coin Act of 1997 mandated that both the Susan B. Anthony dollar coin and the Golden Dollar co-circulate with the dollar bill. Therefore, the Golden Dollar and the Susan B. Anthony dollar coins will continue to co-circulate in the marketplace.


Would the use of the Golden Dollar in lieu of the paper dollar save money and if yes why doesn’t the United States Mint eliminate the paper dollar?

The use of the Golden Dollar coin in lieu of the paper dollar would ultimately save money. The General Accounting Office’s (GAO) stated potential savings of up to $500 million in a report issued September 2002, which was calculated on the premise that the U.S.Government cease production of the paper one-dollar bill. However, the United States Dollar Coin Act of 1997, which authorizes the Golden Dollar, did not call for the elimination of the paper dollar. Consequently, dollar coins and dollar notes co-circulate in the marketplace. The United States Mint does not have the authority to change existing legislation thus, full cost savings cannot be realized.


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