In Memoriam — Glenna Goodacre, 1939 - 2020

Posted on 4/23/2020

Goodacre designed the groundbreaking Sacagawea Dollar, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, a major milestone for any numismatic issue.

Acclaimed sculptor Glenna Goodacre passed away on April 13, 2020, at the age of 80. She was one of only a few women known for creating large-scale public monuments, such as the Vietnam Women’s Memorial in Washington, D.C. and the seven-ton Irish Famine Memorial in Philadelphia. But in numismatics, Goodacre is lauded for a much smaller though still tremendous work — the Sacagawea Dollar.

Numismatic Guaranty Corporation® (NGC®) was honored to have worked with Goodacre as part of the NGC Signature Labels program.

The Sacagawea Dollar has been minted every year since it was introduced in 2000. While the reverse of the coin has been updated annually since 2009 with a design related to Native American contributions to US history, Goodacre’s depiction of Sacagawea looking over her shoulder, where her infant son Jean Baptiste rests his head, has been constant for 20 years.

The debut of the Sacagawea Dollar heralded the possibility of a new era of American coinage. Goodacre’s design is elegant and soft, at once modern and harkening back to early US coins with their numerous representations of Liberty rather than political figures.

Indeed, Sacagawea and her son were conjured from Goodacre’s creative imagination, as no contemporary portraits of Lewis and Clark’s Shoshone guide are known to exist. To create the image, Goodacre chose Randy’L Teton, a Shoshone woman from her own town of Santa Fe, as her model. The result is a numismatic and artistic achievement that will live on in many collections in perpetuity.

When the concept of the Sacagawea Dollar originated, invitations were sent to 23 prominent artists and sculptors to create a design for the coin. Goodacre’s design was chosen, and she received a $5,000 commission for her work. The $5,000 payment was received in 5,000 special Sacagawea Dollars.

The coins presented to Goodacre were distinct from the rest of the Sacagawea Dollars minted in 2000 because they were struck on burnished planchets by polished dies using higher pressure, which resulted in a Specimen finish. They were also treated with an antioxidant to help preserve their unique appearance.

Goodacre was not expecting to be compensated for her work in the form of 5,000 specially burnished and surface-treated coins. The unconventional payment was unannounced in advance, and the coins were delivered to her Santa Fe studio by Mint Director Philip Diehl.

Eventually, Goodacre decided to part with some of her payment, and she signed a limited number of special certification labels created by NGC. The coins were graded and encapsulated by NGC with the “Goodacre Presentation” description before being sold with the hand-signed label.

Goodacre signing NCG certification labels and a 2000 Sacagawea Dollar with her hand-signed special label.
Click coin image to enlarge.

“Glenna Goodacre was among the most talented and successful American sculptors of all time, and NGC was honored to create a distinctive presentation for her special coins from that first mintage,” said Mark Salzberg, NGC Chairman and Grading Finalizer. “After 20 years, her groundbreaking dollar design has left a significant impact on American numismatics.”

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