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Sacagawea dollar nine year legacy
By Paul Gilkes

$1 series ends with 2008 releases
If you've been collecting every possible version of the Sacagawea manganese-brass clad dollar since its January 2000 introduction, you've likely already shelled out a few thousand dollars.

The 5,000 2000-P Sacagawea dollars compensating sculptor Glenna Goodacre for her obverse design were specially burnished and treated with an antioxidant at the Philadelphia Mint, creating an instant rarity for collectors to pursue.

Images courtesy of HeritageAuctions.com. The so-called Cheerios 2000-P Sacagawea dollars, randomly placed inside boxes of the breakfast cereal as part of an advertising campaign, were struck from a reverse die made from a hub different from that used for the remainder of the program. The coins bear a design slightly different from the one on regular issue strikes.

Should you plan to start to assemble a complete set of each issue by date, Mint mark and finish – excluding errors – in this, the program's final year, you would likely end up spending thousands more. Such an assemblage of dollar coins would contain 47 coins.

The coin bears sculptor Glenna Goodacre's portrait of Sacagawea with son, Jean-Baptiste, on the obverse and U.S. Mint Sculptor-Engraver Thomas D. Rogers Sr.'s Soaring Eagle reverse.

Goodacre's obverse will be retained for dollar coins issued under the Native American $1 Coin Act of 2007, beginning in 2009.

The 47-coin set contains the following: circulation-quality strikes from the Denver and Philadelphia Mints for each of the nine years the coins have been struck, from 2000 to 2008; Uncirculated Mint set strikes of the dollars from the Denver and Philadelphia Mints for those same years, including the Satin Finish coins issued in the sets since 2005; Proof Sacagawea dollars struck for nine years at the San Francisco Mint; a Goodacre Presentation 2000-P dollar; and a "Cheerios" 2000-P dollar.

What the "complete set" will not include is one of the dozen Proof 2000-W Sacagawea half-ounce .9167 fine gold pieces struck at the West Point Mint in 1999 without congressional approval and placed aboard a space shuttle flight. The gold pieces, which according to the Mint technically are not coins since they were never officially monetized, are secured at the Fort Knox Bullion Depository in Kentucky.

Circulation strikes

2000-P and 2000-D Sacagawea dollars were struck to the tune of some 1.3 billion coins combined for circulation. In 2001, the combined circulation number struck plummeted to 10 percent of the 2000 total.

Coins struck from the first two years of the program could be pulled from circulation at face value – if one actually encountered any of the coins in use. Because of the low demand for the coins in daily commerce, beginning in 2002 circulation-quality Sacagawea dollars were struck only for collectors, not for circulation release. Annual combined production from 2002 through 2008 averaged between 5 million and 7 million, divided between the Denver and Philadelphia Mints.

Since the 2002 to 2008 coins were not released into circulation, collectors have had to go directly to the U.S. Mint to acquire the coins in 25-coin rolls from each Mint at a premium above the $25 face value of each roll.

Uncirculated Mint sets, Proofs

To obtain the Uncirculated Mint set and Proof versions of Sacagawea dollars from 2000 to 2008 the least expensive way, collectors would have purchased the multicoin Uncirculated Mint sets and Proof sets for those years directly from the U.S. Mint. The Proof Sacagawea dollar is also available in the pricier Silver Proof set from those years, though the Sacagawea dollar was never struck in a silver composition.

Alternatively, collectors may acquire single Uncirculated Mint set coins – one specially struck Denver Mint dollar and one specially struck Philadelphia Mint coin – and single Proof coins struck at the San Francisco Mint from dealers who offer individual coins from sets that have been broken apart.

The Uncirculated Mint set coins are struck on coin presses with dies oriented vertically and operating at a much slower speed and higher tonnage than the coin presses striking circulation-quality coins.

The dies on the coin presses for circulation-quality coins are oriented horizontally. The circulation-quality coins are struck at high speed, up to 750 coins per minute, and are produced on blanks that receive no special treatment before striking, with dies that receive no special treatment.

From 2000 to 2004, the Sacagawea dollars and remaining coins in the Uncirculated Mint sets from those years are of a slightly better quality than circulation strikes. The U.S. Mint introduced a Satin Finish on Uncirculated Mint set coins in 2005. The blanks for the Satin Finish coins are burnished with steel pellets before striking.

Goodacre, Cheerios and space

Two of the coins necessary for a complete set are much more expensive than typical examples of the other coins. Each has an interesting history.

In 2000, sculptor Goodacre requested that the U.S. Mint pay her the $5,000 compensation she was to receive for the Sacagawea obverse design with 5,000 Sacagawea dollars.

U.S. Mint officials complied with the request, but went one step further, creating an instant and highly sought after rarity.

All of the 5,000 coins she received were specially burnished and treated with an antioxidant by the U.S. Mint. The coins were eventually all certified, graded and identified on the enclosed grading insert as "Goodacre Presentation" pieces by Independent Coin Grading Service.

Goodacre retained an undisclosed number of the encapsulated coins for herself and her family. The remainder were sold into the marketplace, the initial offering of pieces being peddled for $200 each at the American Numismatic Association World's Fair of Money in Philadelphia in 2000.

The special pieces continue to bring higher prices than typical examples of the "regular" coins in the set. A Mint State 68 Goodacre Presentation Sacagawea dollar was sold at auction by Heritage Numismatic Auctions in September 2008 for $1,006.25.

The most expensive coin in the set (a coin that now brings five-figure prices at auction) was distributed randomly in a cereal promotion, and its special status was not recognized until years after the pieces were released.

As part of a campaign to promote the use of the Sacagawea dollar in commerce, the U.S. Mint partnered with General Mills to distribute 5,500 of the 2000-P Sacagawea dollars, randomly placed inside boxes of Cheerios cereal of various flavors. Although dated 2000-P, these coins were struck in 1999.

What was not immediately recognized, or at least confirmed, was that the 5,500 coins were struck with a reverse die produced from a different hub than that used for the regular issue Sacagawea dollars.

The differences between the two hubs are subtle, affecting only the tail feathers of the eagle, and could be easily overlooked.

The central line of the tail feather shaft is raised on the Sacagawea dollars found in the Cheerios packages, but recessed on coins struck from circulation. The tail feathers on the Cheerios dollars also have more detail than the tail feathers on the other coins struck. The changes to the design were deliberate to make the tail feathers more realistic.

All later Sacagawea dollars were struck from dies bearing a recessed central line on the shaft of the tail feather. Even the 2000-P Sacagawea dollars paid to recipients of vouchers also found inside some Cheerios boxes, for 100 Sacagawea dollars, were coins bearing the regular reverse.

There is no way to know how many of the Cheerios dollars were spent or may be sitting in someone's dresser drawer, with an owner unaware of owning something special and potentially valuable.

It may behoove those who still have an example housed in its cellophanelike wrapper affixed to cardboard backing to consider getting their coins certified.

How special are they? At the 2008 ANA World's Fair of Money, Heritage sold at auction a Cheerios Sacagawea dollar graded MS-68 by Professional Coin Grading Service and a PCGS MS-66 red 2000-(P) Lincoln cent also pulled from a Cheerios box. Offered as a single lot, the pair realized $34,500.

The same die, or another die produced from the same hub, as used for the 5,500 dollar coins was also the version used for striking the reverse for the dozen Proof 2000-W Sacagawea 22-karat gold dollars that were placed aboard the space shuttle Columbia during its July 23, 1999, space mission.

One's collection of Sacagawea dollars should be considered complete despite the lack of a gold example, since these pieces were never issued.

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