Letter Regarding the Design for the New Circulating Dollar Coin

The new United States One Dollar Coin is scheduled to debut on January 1, 2000. Ever since the authorizing legislation was passed, there has been much debate regarding the coin's design. On June 8-9, 1998, the Treasury Department's Dollar Coin Design Advisory Committee (DCDAC) met to hear the public's comments.

PAN's Chairman-of-the-Board Don Carlucci attended the meeting, held at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. Following the meeting, he penned the following letter on behalf of PAN to Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin.

June 25, 1998

Mr. Robert E. Rubin
Secretary of the Treasury
Department of the Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20220

Attention: Mr. Robert E. Rubin

Subject: Design For New Circulating Dollar Coin

Dear Secretary Rubin:

On May 28, 1998, I wrote to you concerning the controversy that was raging over the design of the proposed coin dollar. At that time, I discussed many of the proposals, concepts, versions and renditions that were emanating out of the pages of the numismatic press. Design ideas expressed, covered many areas of American history ranging from American women astronauts in space, to a revival of the Susan B. Anthony dollar.  Women whose names and deeds had been cast into the forefront included Sacagawea, the fourteen year old Indian guide of the Lewis and Clark expedition; Margaret Chase Smith, the first woman United States Senator; Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross; the great humanitarian of the Depression era, Eleanor Roosevelt; and perhaps even the woman who many consider to be one of the most important personages of the twentieth century, Ms. Rachel Carson. Ms. Carson simply may have affected every living and future living creature on this planet with her words of warning and prophecy. Her books, her writings succeed in alerting the public to the dangers of pesticides and insecticides that were poisoning and destroying our biological ecosystem. She became the inspiration for the entire Environmental movement. Her writings were the driving force behind the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency that was established to protect us as citizens of planet earth from the chemical hazards that were being recklessly discarded as byproducts and wastes of our advanced, industrialized society.

One can continue touting the talents, the perseverance, and the intelligence of the women who have made their mark on American history. However, whatever selection that would be made, part of the populace would feel rewarded and blessed, while the remainder would feel neglected and shunned. All of the individuals that I have listed should be honored, praised, and immortalized on the designs of our American coinage. This can best be accomplished by placing them on the obverse side of a commemorative coin.

Any attempt to use as a design, any female figure, either living or dead, as a real or allegorical representation of liberty can only become a blueprint for future paranoia and future controversy. It is of extreme importance that we learn from the lessons and failings of a previous circulating dollar coin design that featured the bust of the world famous American suffragette, Susan B. Anthony.

This design delighted the female members of Congress, women lobbyists, and the women's rights proponents of the Equal Rights Amendment. However, the coin, the design, the actual physical size of the piece was disliked and confusing to a majority of Americans who often passed it off as a twenty-five cent piece. As more pieces were minted, more pieces tended to be stockpiled in coin bags within the vaults of the United States Treasury Department.

The Anthony dollars were collected by a select few coin collectors and fellow numismatists that were basically attempting to complete their dollar series. For the most part these coins were shunned by the American public and did not widely circulate. Finally, and at long last, they were able to find a more utilitarian and commercial usage in vending machines and slot machines that were specifically designed for the purpose of accepting them.

From this bitter experience, it has been determined that placing the representation of a real female figure on the obverse of an American coin, no matter how worthy the individual or their cause, will not be proper or fitting, if we are to expect that the coin and its design will be universally accepted. Please, remember that the Anthony dollars were only minted for a period of three years, beginning in 1979 and ending in 1981. Also remember, that this design was the first time in American history that a real woman, and not a mythical figure had appeared on a circulating United States coin.

It has been written many times and many places that "those that do not learn from the mistakes of past history are condemned to repeat them." With the trials and tribulations of our historical past behind us, we must seek a coin design that best represents America, its past, its future, and its greatness.

Frank Gasparo Small Dollar Design
To a numismatist, one needs not look any further than a design that has already been created and is ready for the minting process. This design, this "new" dollar sized coin is the original design created by the former Chief Engraver of the United States Mint, Mr. Frank Gasparro.

In the year 1977, when the American public was prepared to accept a new, dollar sized coin, Mr. Gasparro prepared the designs for the obverse and reverse of a piece that he felt would both be historically correct and aesthetically pleasing.

The obverse of the coin depicts a Flowing Hair Liberty design with a Liberty Cap and Pole in the background. Mr. Gasparro adapted the Liberty portrait from the original 1794 large cent design. However, his depiction of Liberty takes on a more modern rendition.

The reverse of the coin depicts a rising American Eagle, that had been nesting on a symbolic sun that also appears to be rising.

This reverse design best represents our American ideals of freedom, liberty, and independence that were first expressed by our founding fathers. It blends with the representation of our new and modern America of today. The reverse design of an American eagle rising out of a rising sun captures our dreams, our hopes, and our aspirations for the future and a bright tomorrow.

The Liberty Cap portion of Mr. Gasparro's design can be the location where the word "PEACE" is inscribed. This action could best accomplish the dream of former American Numismatic Association president, Mr. Kenneth Bressett to encourage all nations of the world to produce "Peace" 2000 coins as a positive means of welcoming the new millennium.

On June 8, and June 9, of 1998, at a meeting held in Philadelphia, Mr. Bressett convinced the Treasury Department's Dollar Coin Advisory Committee to recommend to Secretary Robert Rubin that "PEACE" be included as a legend on the new small-sized circulating dollar coin to be issued early in the year 2000.

The word "PEACE" inscribed on the Liberty Cap of Mr. Gasparro's Liberty design could symbolize the American ideals of liberty, independence, and freedom tempered with the desires of a lasting world peace.

At that early June, 1998 meeting of the Treasury Department's Dollar Coin Advisory Committee in the auditorium of the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Building, a total of seventeen design concept presentations were delivered from interested members of the public. The programs and design concepts presented, ranged from various forms of allegorical liberty designs to the depiction of real women that included Eleanor Roosevelt, Mary Chase Smith, Jane Adams, Juliette Gordon Low, Susan B. Anthony, Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells, Bessie Coleman, Pearl S. Buck, Betsy Ross, Marian Anderson. and Sacagawea.

After much open deliberation and political maneuvering, the "politically correct" solution was finally reached to the satisfaction of a majority of the Dollar Coin Advisory Committee. The new dollar sized coin would have the design of "Liberty represented by a native American woman, inspired by Sacagawea" on the obverse of the piece.

From a purely historical context, to have Sacagawea represent liberty, independence, and freedom would be the ultimate slap in the face for the universal rights of women, their contributions to society in general and to western civilization in particular, and for the equality that they have fought so hard to achieve.

At the tender age of eleven, Sacagawea was captured by a rival Indian tribe, the Hidatsa tribe, and she was taken from her Shoshone family. While in captivity, she was purchased by a French-Canadian trader, Toussaint Charbonneau. Charbonneau made her one of his wives. Being considered as little more than common chattel, she was forced to submit to the demands and the desires of her husband. In the year 1804, at the age of fourteen and already six months pregnant, Sacagawea followed the dictates of her husband and joined with him to lead the Lewis and Clark expedition across the vast western half of our unexplored nation. Skillful in both the ways of nature and man, she was able to teach her leaders the ability to eat off of the land and to proceed peacefully through hostile areas without incident or loss of life.

Although, Sacagawea's abilities led to the general success of the expedition, she did not go of her own free will. Basically, she was a slave following the dictates of the owner/husband that had purchased her. Ten years after the expedition had been completed, Sacagawea died, probably a victim of her arduous life and circumstances.

It should also be noted that no pictures, no drawings and no photographs of Sacagawea were ever made. One receives a short glimpse of her physical characteristics and attributes by reviewing the chronicles of Captains Lewis and Clark. With this knowledge in mind, it would be very difficult for an artist or engraver to design a coin or medal with an accurate lifelike image of Sacagawea.

If you combine the problem of an inaccurate physical representation with an inaccurate representation of liberty, freedom, and independence, you will be creating a vehicle for future criticism, ridicule, and ultimate failure.

Sacagawea, although very important in an historical context, would be a poor choice to be used for the symbol of freedom on our new circulating dollar coin.

It must be reiterated, the best design to represent our symbols of freedom, liberty, and independence, is the design of Mr. Gasparro, the former Chief Engraver of the United States Mint.

Since time is of the essence, and the new circulating dollar coin must be introduced into circulation by January 1, 2000, the Gasparro design also has another built-in advantage.

All of the other designs and concepts will require drawings, reviews, criticisms, the creation of obverse and reverse molds, plaster casts, mechanical reductions, cutting of the dies, trial strikes, and striking of the finished pieces.

The dies for the Gasparro dollar have already been cut. The dies and the hubs are presently stored in the vaults of the United States Mint in Philadelphia. In a short period of time, probably less than a month, the dies can be adjusted to denote the proper date and mint marks, the word 'PEACE" can be cut into the liberty cap, production can begin, and the coins can be readied for distribution and circulation among the American citizenry and the economic and commercial markets of the world.

I hope that the presentation that I have created will want you to rethink the design selection for the dollar size circulating coin. As an American citizen born, baptized, and raised in a modern nation that expounds upon the virtues of liberty, freedom, and independence, the placing of the hapless image of Sacagawea upon a coin that is to be the metallic personification of all of these sacred values, would be both an injustice to her memory and a sacrilege to the groups of people in which the coin would circulate.

On behalf of the entire membership of the Pennsylvania Association of Numismatists, please consider former Chief Engraver of the United States Mint, Mr. Frank Gasparro's design to be the design to lead us symbolically as a nation into the next millennium.

In closing, thank you for your valuable time and any and all considerations that you will give to this very important matter.

Respectfully yours,

Donald D. Carlucci
Chairman of the Board
Pennsylvania Association of Numismatists


cc: President William Jefferson Clinton
Beth Deisher, Editor, Coin World Magazine

Copyright © 1998 The Pennsylvania Association of Numismatists.
All Rights Reserved.

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