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The U.S. Mint issued the Sacagawea Golden Dollar
from 2000 to 2008. It was the first dollar made with an outer layer
of manganese brass, giving it a golden color. The obverse design
features Sacagawea and the reverse depicts a soaring eagle. In
2009, the dollar transitioned to the Native American $1 Coin
ProgramI’m all about the Sacagawea obverse! Each year, I get to
show off my collection with a unique reverse design. It’s so cool
to mix and match the designs and see what I can come up with. From
the classic eagle to the bald eagle to the buffalo and beyond, it’s
exciting to see what I can put together. I love how I can keep
building my collection with these coins. It’s an amazing way to
honor the past and celebrate the future.
The Life of Sacagawea
I had the privilege of being part of the Lewis
and Clark expedition, back when I was only a teenager. I was a
Shoshone Indian and my husband and our son, who was born on our
journey, were also there to help. We guided the adventurers from
the Northern Great Plains to the Pacific Ocean and back. It was an
incredible experience that I will never forget.
I was around 11 when I was taken from my
Shoshone tribe by a Hidatsa raiding party. I was then sold into
slavery with the Missouri River Mandans, where I was given away in
a bet to Toussaint Charbonneau, a French-Canadian fur trader. He
took me as his wife.
Hired by Lewis and Clark
I was recruited by Captains Lewis and Clark
mainly for the impressive abilities of my wife, Sacagawea. At the
time she was only fifteen and already expecting our first child.
Despite the fact that this could be an obstacle to a long and
laborious journey, Sacagawea was proficient in multiple Indigenous
languages. Furthermore, as a Shoshone, she could assist Lewis and
Clark in making contact with her people and obtaining horses, which
were essential for the mission to succeed.
I exceeded Lewis and Clark’s expectations by
leaps and bounds. I showed them the landscape of some of the
toughest terrain in North America and taught them all about new
foods they never knew about. I even saved Clark’s journals when
their boat flipped over. With my little baby on my back, I managed
to save all of the records from their first year of exploration.
Without me, so much of it would have been lost forever.
I was the “white flag” of peace for the
expedition, and I was crucial. I was well-armed but with a small
number of people, and I was also accompanied by my infant. The
Native Americans were curious about us instead of being aggressive,
and often I was the translator. Thanks to my presence, not one of
our party was lost to hostile action.
After the Expedition
I’m always in awe of Sacagawea and the journey
she took with the adventurers. After it was over, they all felt a
debt of gratitude to her. Clark even said that she deserved more
than what the expedition had offered her. It was a few years later
when he took it upon himself to provide an education for her son,
and after her death at the age of 25, her daughter too. Sacagawea’s
grave is in Lander, Wyoming – a reminder of her courage and
The Coin Design Selection Process
I was personally involved in a momentous event:
picking a design concept for the dollar coin. In June 1998, the
Dollar Coin Design Advisory Committee (DCDAC) met up in
Philadelphia for a public session. The committee was made up of an
impressive group: 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. The
U.S. Mint Director, Philip N. Diehl, was there too, but he didn’t
get to vote. It was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to make
I attended the DCDAC meeting and heard 17
amazing design concept presentations from members of the public, as
well as many comments from the public. After careful deliberation,
I voted for the dollar coin to feature Sacagawea’s image. It was
certainly a difficult decision, but one I’m proud of.
The Public Reviews the Designs
I was invited by the Mint to create a design
featuring Sacagawea on the obverse and an eagle representing peace
and freedom on the reverse. After submitting my design, the Mint
gathered representatives of the Native American community,
numismatists, artists, educators, historians, congressional
members, Mint and Treasury employees, and other members of the
public to review and provide feedback on all designs. I was
grateful to have historians to advise the U.S. Mint on the
historical accuracy of my design.
In December 1998, I consulted the comments and
narrowed my design options down to seven. After that, I presented
the selections to the Commission of Fine Arts for final
Choosing the Final Design
I gave the Commission of Fine Arts my
recommendation about the Mint. After reviewing all the input I got,
I presented the last designs to the Secretary of the Treasury. On
May 4th, 1999, the Mint revealed the design from sculptor Glenna
Goodacre at the White House. It was a big moment and I was proud to
be a part of it.
I sought the opinion of historians and Native
American representatives for the design of the Mint. Records were
uncertain of the correct spelling of Sacagawea’s name, so I made
the decision to go with “Sacagawea” based on several reliable
sources. We also discussed how Sacagawea may have carried her baby,
backing the idea that she had likely used Hidatsa custom rather
than a Shoshone cradleboard at some point in the journey.
I’m looking at the shiny, golden dollar in my
hand. On the obverse, otherwise known as ‘heads’, is an image of
Sacagawea. She’s looking straight at me, and her large, dark eyes
stand out. I can imagine her in the legends of her Shoshone people.
It turns out the artist, Glenna Goodacre, used a present-day
Shoshone college student, Randy’L He-dow Teton, as her model. How
incredible that a student from the modern day has been used to
capture the power of a historical figure.
Carrying my infant son, Jean Baptiste, on my
back, six months pregnant when I joined the Lewis and Clark
expedition, I was Sacagawea. I gave birth to Jean Baptiste early on
in the journey. This brave feat was one amongst many during my
journey that I was proud of. Exploring the unknown, I was a symbol
of strength and resilience. My son was my motivation to keep
fighting and striving for success. To this day, I am still
remembered for my courage and determination.
I’m in awe of the reverse of this coin. It
features an eagle in flight, encircled by 17 stars – each one
representing a state in the Union at the time of the famous 1804
Lewis and Clark expedition. The reverse was designed to perfectly
balance out the obverse of the coin, and I think it looks stunning.
The eagle gives it a majestic feel, and the stars add a touch of
history and patriotism. It’s one of those coins that you can’t help
- IN GOD WE TRUST
- UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
- E PLURIBUS UNUM
- ONE DOLLAR
Mint and Mint Mark
- San Francisco
I’m a fan of the golden dollar coin. It’s a
beauty to behold, with its golden color, wide border, smooth edges,
and special alloy. It’s only 8.1 grams in weight, 2 mm thick, and
26.5 mm in diameter. A real showstopper!
I’m holding a Sacagawea coin in my hand and it’s
made up of three layers. The middle layer is pure copper and the
outside layers are manganese brass. Over time, the color of the
brass will darken, giving the coin an antique finish. If I handle
it a lot, the patina will start to wear off the high points,
leaving brighter highlights on the surface. This gives the coin a
really nice depth and contrast.
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
- Designer: Glenna
- Designer: Thomas
Frequently asked questions
What is the value of a gold dollar
The value of a gold dollar coin depends on its
type and condition; common varieties are generally worth between
$30 and $200.
What year was the gold dollar coin
The gold dollar coin was minted from 1849
What is the purity of a gold dollar
A gold dollar coin is typically made with 90%
gold and 10% copper, with a gold content of 0.48375 troy
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