The Sacagawea dollar is a United States coin that was first minted in 2000. The coin honors Sacagawea, a Shoshone woman who helped the Lewis and Clark Expedition navigate the western United States in 1804-1806. The Lewis and Clark expedition was commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson to explore and document the newly-acquired Louisiana Territory.
Despite its relatively short-lived history, the Sacagawea dollar has had its fair share of controversy. In 2005, Congress passed a bill to discontinue production of the coin for general circulation, citing low demand and cost-effectiveness concerns. However, it continues to be minted for collectors and can still be used in commerce.
However, the collectors’ edition you see still minted to this day is generally low in value, as it is way too common. Aside from its contentious history and design changes, the Sacagawea dollar also has a unique composition. It is made with manganese brass, rather than the traditional copper-nickel blend used for other US coins.
Despite its difficulties, the Sacagawea dollar remains an interesting piece of American history and numismatic culture. Many collectors prize the Sacagawea dollar for its unique design and historical significance. The coin has also seen a resurgence in popularity thanks to its appearance in the popular book and film series, The Hunger Games. So whether you’re a fan of the book or just want to add some unique coins to your collection, be sure to keep an eye out for the Sacagawea dollar.
In this article, you are going to learn more about the history and controversy surrounding the Sacagawea dollar, as well as tips for collecting them. Let’s dive in.
The History of the Sacagawea Dollar
The creation of the Sacagawea dollar can be traced back to the Native American $1 Coin Act of 1997. This act called for the minting of coins that honored famous Native Americans and tribes. The Shoshone woman, Sacagawea, was chosen as the first design for this series.
The coin was first minted in 2000 and featured a rendition of Sacagawea with her infant son, Jean Baptiste, on her back. The reverse features an eagle soaring above the Rocky Mountains. It was designed by Glenna Goodacre and Thomas D. Rogers sr., and was widely praised for its beauty.
However, the Sacagawea dollar faced numerous challenges from its inception. The public did not widely accept or use the coin, leading to low circulation levels. In addition, the Sacagawea dollar and the similarly unpopular Presidential $1 coin program were seen as a waste of taxpayer money by some lawmakers.
In 2005, Congress passed a bill to discontinue production of the Sacagawea dollar for general circulation, but the bill only took effect in 2008, the last year the coin was minted for circulation. It continues to be produced for collectors, but at a much lower rate than before. However, it continues to be minted for collectors at a higher rate than before and can still be used in commerce.
Despite this, the Sacagawea dollar continues to be minted for collectors and can still be used in commerce. But the coin has seen its fair share of criticism over the years, so much that the original production only ran from 2000 to 2008.
Controversy and Design Changes
The Sacagawea dollar faced some controversy over its design and production. Native American groups initially opposed the use of Sacagawea’s image on the coin, citing that she did not choose to be part of the Lewis and Clark Expedition and did not want her image used for profit.
In 2009, the reverse design was changed from the soaring eagle to an image based on the Jefferson Peace Medal. This new design was produced by Glenna Goodacre and Norm Nemeth, and it represents a woman sowing seeds, a symbol of peace and prosperity. This design change was met with mixed reactions, as some collectors preferred the original reverse design.
The coin’s composition was also subject of endless debates. Unlike traditional US coins, which are made with copper and nickel, the Sacagawea dollar is made with manganese brass. This decision faced criticism for potentially causing allergic reactions and for being more expensive to produce.
Evaluating Sacagawea Dollars
Evaluating coins is a vital part of collecting, and the Sacagawea dollar is no exception. You’re spending money to buy a collectible item, so it’s important to understand its value and potential for increasing in value over time, so that you avoid frauds and get the most bang for your buck.
Here’s what you should be looking at:
- The coin’s grade — This refers to the coin’s condition, and is evaluated on a scale from 1 to 70, with higher numbers indicating a better condition. We will delve deeper into this topic in the next section.
- Mint mark — Coins minted at different locations will have different mint marks, which can affect their value. Specifically, the Sacagawea dollar was minted at the Philadelphia, Denver, San Francisco, and West Point mints. That means you can expect to see the letters “P,” “D,” “S”, and “W” on the coins. However, only coins from Philadelphia and Denver have survived to this day, as a result of low circulation levels.
- Year of production — The Sacagawea dollars were produced from 2000 to 2008, but some years have lower mintages and are thus more valuable. These include 2000-P, 2001-P, and 2008-D coins.
- Design varieties — In addition to the 2009 design change mentioned earlier, there are also minor varieties in some of the Sacagawea dollar designs. These include doubled die errors and variations in tail feathers on the reverse design.
- Mintage numbers — The fewer coins minted, the higher the value. For example, a 2000 Sacagawea dollar with the “W” mint mark has an extremely low mintage and is worth much more than one without a mint mark.
- Collector demand — Partially related to mintage numbers and year of production. This can vary greatly, as some collectors may prefer certain designs, mint marks, or years over others.
- Looks — Some coins just happen to look nicer than others. Better luster, more details, and fewer marks or scratches can increase the value. Something as simple as scratches in two different areas can make one coin worth significantly less than another.
Warning: Remember, counterfeits do exist, so it’s always wise to purchase from a reputable dealer and to carefully examine the coin yourself before making a purchase.
But let’s now dive deeper into the business of grading coins, as that’s crucial to evaluating and determining value.
Grading a Sacagawea Coin
Coin grading is performed by professional coin experts, who use a meticulous process to determine a coin’s condition on the 1-70 scale mentioned earlier. This scale, known as the Sheldon Scale, was developed by Dr. William Sheldon in the 1950s.
Coins with a grade of 60 or above are considered to be in “mint” condition, while those below 60 show signs of wear. However, it’s important to note that coins with a lower grade can still hold value, particularly if they have other factors such as low mintage numbers in their favor.
Grading can be subjective, and even experienced graders may have differences in opinion. That’s why it’s important to only buy coins that have been graded by a reputable third-party grading service, such as the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) or the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC). These services use strict standards and have experienced graders on staff.
The uncirculated vs circulated grades provide the biggest gap in value usually, as coins that have never been used will naturally be in better condition. However, even circulated coins can hold value and be desirable to collectors.
Here’s a grading list to help you better navigate and understand coin conditions. But if you only care about having a general idea, here are the main grades to look out for:
- Mint State (MS) 60-70: Near perfect condition, no noticeable wear
- About Uncirculated (AU) 50-59: Minor wear on the highest points of the coin’s design
- Extremely Fine (EF or XF) 40-49: Light wear on some parts of the design
- Very Fine (VF) 20-39: Moderate wear on the design, but all lettering and major details are still clear
- Fine (F) 12-19: Noticeable wear, but overall design is still intact
- Very Good (VG) 8-11: Heavy wear, with flat spots and merging of some design elements
- Good (G) 4-7: A lot of wear, with only the major design elements visible
- About Good (AG) 3: Heavily worn and lacking most design details
Coins with a value of 2, 1, or 0, only show enough details to identify the type of coin.
Here’s a video that shows various Sacagawea dollars, as well as tips&tricks on grading them and estimating their value:
Despite its controversy and low circulation levels, the Sacagawea dollar remains an interesting collectible for coin enthusiasts. Its unique composition and design changes make it a noteworthy addition to any collection.
Sacagawea Coin Value: Buying a Sacagawea Dollar
When it comes to buying a Sacagawea dollar, you have several options. One is to simply buy from circulation — if you come across one in your daily transactions, just save it! These coins can also sometimes be found at banks and coin shops, particularly those that specialize in collectible coins.
You can also purchase Sacagawea dollars online, from both individual sellers and major coin dealers. It’s important to carefully review the seller’s reputation and return policies before making a purchase.
To help you budget for a Sacagawea dollar, here is a table showcasing how much you should expect to pay for various grades of the coin.
Editor’s note: We only included the original 2000-2008 Sacagawea dollar in this table.
|Coin Year & Mint||Average Circulated (Poor to Fine)||Very Fine, Extremely Fine & About uncirculated||Uncirculated & Select Uncirculated MS-60 to MS-63||Choice & Gem Uncirculated MS-64 to MS-66||Superb & Perfect Uncirculated MS-67 to MS-70|
|2000 (P & D)||Only 3 PO sales: one for $81, one for $104, and one for $690||$6–$115. A few AU58-P coins went for thousands of dollars: $10,925, $7,638, and $9,106||$6–$200. A few outliers went for $575, $1,000 and $2,00||Most go for $7–$350. A few go for a few thousand dollars (1, 2, and 3), with one reaching $11,500 and even $34,500. The record sale was $88,125||Most go from $6 to $1,000. That’s where prices start rising to $3,000, $5,500, and $10,000. Other big sales were this one for $34,500 and this one for $56,350. The record sale was $117,500|
|2001 (P & D)||No recent sales||No recent sales||Only one MS62 sale for $15, then a few MS63 sales (1, 2, and 3)||$6–$184. A couple MS64 coins sold for record prices of $4,406 and $5,705|| Most sell for $11–$100. MS69-P ones can get up to $3,738
|2002 (P & D)||No recent sales||No recent sales||No recent sales||$6–$121. But this MS66-D struck on a quarter planchet fetched $8,050||$10–$200. A few MS69 coins broke the $1,000 price point (1, 2, and 3)|
|2003 (P & D)||No recent sales||No recent sales||No recent sales||$7–$21||$8 up to a few hundred dollars (1, 2, and 3). A couple went for $2,000 and $4,000|
|2004 (P & D)||No recent sales||No recent sales||No recent sales||$7–$33||$7–$81. A few went for around a thousand dollars (1, 2, and 3). The record sale was $4,465|
|2005 (P & D)||No recent sales||No recent sales||No recent sales||$8–$11||$6–$54. A few MS68-D went for $500 and $700. The record sale was of this MS69-P coin for $7,638|
|2006 (P & D)||No recent sales||No recent sales||No recent sales||$6–$13||$10–$94. Two went for around $1,000 (1 and 2) The record sale was $4,313|
|2007 (P & D)||No recent sales||No recent sales||No recent sales||Only one sale for $10||$7–$96|
|2008 (P & D)||No recent sales||No recent sales||No recent sales||$6–$11||$8–$150. Two MS68-P coins sold for around $300 (1 and 2), and the record sale belongs to this 2008-D MS68 coin that went for $2,115|
Editor’s note: the absolute record sale for a Sacagawea dollar was for this Muled with Statehood Quarter version, which fetched $192,000 at auction.
As far as the Sacagawea dollars minted from 2009 onwards, they are way less valuable, as their mintage numbers were much higher. These coins can usually be bought for just face value or a few dollars above it.
For example, here is a 2009-P Native American coin that sold for $7. Here’s a 2012-D one that sold for $10. This is how most of these coins go for, and all are in an MS65 or higher grade. A few manage to get up to a couple hundreds of dollars, like this 2012-D MS69 coin that sold for $223, or this 2009 Missing Edge Lettering MS68 coin that sold for $780.
The absolute maximum price the Native American series (2009+) has fetched at an auction was $3,475 followed by this $2,955 one Other notable sales are this one for $2,500 and this $1,995 one. As you can see, these coins are pretty affordable by collecting standards, mostly because of how common they are.
Sacagawea Dollar Minting Errors
If there’s one thing that tips off collectors and drives up the value of a coin, it’s minting errors. While they are errors, which would suggest they are less valuable, they can actually fetch high prices because of their rarity.
Here are the most notable ones:
- The “mule” error — A mule error happens when the obverse and reverse designs on a coin don’t match. The 2000 Sacagawea Dollar Mule Error is nearly indistinguishable from a typical Sacagawea Dollar, save for one crucial distinction: it was created when die-makers at the Mint confused a Statehood Quarter obverse die for the Sacagawea Dollar. This caused the Sacagawea design to be placed on the back of the coin, rather than the front.
- The Double Denomination error — This error occurs when a sacragawea dollar is struck with a quarter die on one side and a dollar die on the other. Only nine of these errors are known to exist in circulation, making them incredibly rare and valuable. One sold for $228,750 in 2004
- The Wide Rim error — The 2001 Wide Rim Sacagawea dollar error is characterized by a distinct, wider rim on the obverse side of the coin. This error was caused by a faulty collar die during the minting process, leading to an uneven striking of the coin’s design.
- The Cheerios error — This isn’t really an error, as it was purposely created by the mint. In 2000, some Sacagawea dollars were included in special Cheerios boxes as a promotional effort. Obviously, these are way rarer than the usual 2000 Sacagawea dollars, which makes them more valuable.
- The Wounded Eagle error — On this 2000 Sacagawea dollar error, the eagle on the reverse design appears to have a damaged wing. This was caused by a worn die at the mint, leading to a weak strike on that portion of the coin.
Warning: due to how valuable coins with minting errors can be, there are unfortunately counterfeit versions circulating. It’s important to buy from reputable sources and have your Sacagawea dollar authenticated before purchasing.
These errors usually go unnoticed by an untrained eye, or worse, they make the average layperson think the coin is fake or a dud. But to a savvy collector, they can be incredibly valuable and coveted additions to their collection.
FAQs about the Sacagawea Dollar
When did the Sacagawea dollar enter circulation?
The Sacagawea dollar officially entered circulation on January 1, 2000.
How much is a Sacagawea dollar worth?
It depends on several factors, including its condition and whether it has any minting errors. A regular Sacagawea dollar in good condition can be worth around $5, while a rare minting error can easily fetch six figures at an auction.
Is the Sacagawea dollar still in circulation?
The original Sacagawea design was only minted from 2000 to 2008. However, the Native American series (featuring different designs on the reverse side) has continued to be minted from 2009 onwards. These coins can usually be found in circulation for their face value.
Why is Sacagawea on the dollar?
Sacagawea, a Shoshone woman, played a vital role in the Lewis and Clark expedition as a translator and guide. She was chosen to appear on the dollar in homage to her contribution to American history.
How do I grade my Sacagawea dollar?
Usually grading is best reserved to professionals in the field. However, for a preliminary inspection, all you need is a magnifying glass and good lighting. Examine the coin for scratches, nicks, discoloration, and other signs of wear. The less wear a coin has, the higher its grade will be.
The Sacagawea dollar may not be as popular as other coins, but it still has value and significance in both American history and the collectible coin market. From minting errors to its tribute to a historically important figure, the Sacagawea dollar is a fascinating piece of our country’s currency.
The Sacagawea dollar isn’t as valuable as other coins, as it’s much younger, which heavily impacts its rarity. But it’s still a collectible and important part of American history, making it worth keeping an eye out for in your pocket change.
Its design pays tribute to the important role Sacagawea played in the Lewis and Clark expedition, and minting errors can make these coins highly coveted by collectors. The Sacagawea dollar is unique in that it features an image of someone who wasn’t neither a mythical figure like Lady Liberty, nor a U.S. President.
When buying a Sacagawea dollar, always remember to get it appraised by a professional and buy from reputable sources to avoid counterfeits. Who knows — you might just come across a rare minting error that could be worth a small fortune.