NGC Certifies Pattern Sacagawea Dollar

Posted on 7/1/2005

On Monday, June 20, 2005, NGC certified a pattern 2000-P Sacagawea Dollar struck from dies made with experimental hubs.

An important numismatic discovery
Sacagawea Dollar
The discovery specimen of the pattern 2000-P Sacagawea Dollar, NGC MS66. Click to enlarge.

On Monday, June 20, 2005, NGC certified a pattern 2000-P Sacagawea Dollar struck from dies made with experimental hubs. While similar to the final design, the reverse's eagle device shows considerably greater detail than that seen on circulation and proof issues struck from the adopted dies and is very easy to identify. The story of this coin is emerging as one of the most fascinating numismatic discoveries to come to light in some time. This coin can be distinguished from virtually every other pattern coin of the 20th century in an important way—a relatively large number of 5,500 were produced and then dispersed through non-numismatic channels.

The tale begins with a marketing campaign that sought to promote the re-issuance and redesign of the dollar coin. The U.S. Mint undertook a mass-market media blitz. They popularly dubbed the coin the "golden dollar" and partnered with many companies to raise awareness of the new coin. Although primarily a millennium celebration, one such promotion was conducted with General Mills. A single example of the first 10,000,000 Lincoln cents struck bearing the date 2000 was included inside every marked box of Cheerios that year. One in every 2000 boxes included a cent coin and a Sacagawea Dollar. According to a General Mills promotional release, "during the month of January, the only place to get either coin [was] in a box of Cheerios." We know this is true statement regarding the Sacagawea Dollar, as it was not released to Federal Reserve Banks until January 26, 2000, and Wal-Mart (another company participating in promotional distribution) did not release them until January 30, 2000.

Cheerios Box
A picture of the front of a box of Cheerios brand cereal, which as a millennium-inspired promotion included a 2000 Lincoln Cent, and the prospect of finding a year 2000 Sacagawea Dollar. It is now known that the enclosed dollar coins were patterns. Click for more details about the Cheerios promotion.

To have coins delivered to General Mills in time for their promotion, the Mint struck 5,500 coins in late summer or early fall of 1999. Full-scale production of the finalized Sacagawea Dollar began over a month later on November 18, 1999. During the intervening time tests of the design were still ongoing at the Mint. NGC has confirmed with Mint officials that a total of 16 design variations were sculpted during this process. A design variation other than the final 16th edition was used to strike the first delivery of these coins, the "Cheerios" coins. It is believed that, when full scale production was being considered, a design flaw was discovered prompting the Mint to reduce detail for mass production of dies.

The discovery coin was submitted to NGC at the Long Beach Coin Show in February 2005 by collector Pat Braddick. In discussion with Mike Wallace, who operates a Web site devoted to the Sacagawea Dollar, www.smalldollars.com, Braddick learned that he might have something special. Dave Lange, NGC Director of Research, was on hand to examine the coin. Lange immediately hypothesized that the coin had been struck from prototype dies and more closely resembled the plasticine models sculpted by Mint Engraver Tom Rogers. Lange had viewed these models at the Philadelphia Mint in March, 2000 in the presence of Rogers, who told him that alterations had been made to the design before mass production began.

Sacagawea Dollar
Side by Side images of a the pattern dollar (top) and regular issue dollar (bottom) reveal obvious differences in the level of detail. Click to enlarge.

When the coin arrived at NGC, resident expert in Mint production, Dave Camire, began an extensive research process to uncover the source of this coin's unusual attributes. He was aided in his research by Tom DeLorey, a coin dealer with Harlan J. Berk. Ltd. DeLorey first identified and reported feather variations on the Sacagawea Dollar's reverse in January, 2000. Subsequent research by NGC and DeLorey revealed that this same reverse was used by the West Point Mint to strike 39 Sacagawea Dollars in 22 karat gold in June, 1999. Just 12 of these gold 2000-W dollars are still extant, and are housed at Fort Knox. They have been given the reference number J-2190 for inclusion in the most recent edition of the standard pattern reference by J. Hewitt Judd and edited by Q. David Bowers, United States Pattern, Experimental & Trial Pieces. DeLorey also submitted a second 2000-P Sacagawea Dollar in April of this year, this one still in its original Cheerios holder. The complete history, as related above, was at long last finally pieced together.

The pattern Sacagawea Dollar is easy to distinguish from a circulation issue upon examining its reverse. The eagle's wings and tail show intricate feather detail, including raised central feather shafts and numerous veins. These details are absent on the adopted design on which the central tail feather shows an incuse shaft.

Sacagawea Dollar
Click to see an enlargement of a pattern Sacagawea Dollar.

NGC has designated these coins as patterns because of a broad confluence of information surrounding their production. They were produced for testing purposes and inadvertently, in a small release, were distributed for a specialized promotion, not for general circulation. They were minted prior to mass circulation production. The dies employed had not completed their final testing phase, and modifications were made to accommodate the circulation production process. The only other known use of this reverse die was on the pattern gold 2000-W Sacagawea Dollar.

Sacagawea Dollar
Click to see an enlargement of a pattern Sacagawea Dollar a regular issue.

This is unquestionably one of the most intriguing new finds in the annals of modern coinage. The fact that they are just now being recognized, five years after their release, is surprising to many experts. A mad rush to locate other specimens is already underway. With 5,500 examples widely dispersed, who knows where they will turn up? Let the treasure hunt begin!

* SPECIAL NOTICE
Because every pattern Sacagawea dollar will have its own unique story of discovery, NGC will pedigree every example submitted to us for grading. Please specify your desired pedigree on the submission form. Contact NGC Customer service at Service@NGCcoin.com or 1-800-NGC-COIN with any questions regarding rare coin submission.