• seperator

December 7, 1999

 

As the 1990s wound down, everyone prepared for a new millennium. And with a new millennium, came a new dollar coin.

Dollar rolls off press

By David L. Ganz

The Mint brought its circulating coin inventory into the 21st century 42 days early when, at 5 p.m. on the evening of Nov. 18, it opened the Philadelphia Mint to a select group of witnesses who not only watched the first golden colored Sacagawea dollar coins being struck, but were permitted to step up to the presses and strike their own memento.

Souvenirs of the event were then turned over to two members of the special Mint Police who carefully placed a new Sacagawea dollar bearing a year 200 date into a manila envelope onto which the minter’s name and address were hand written in ink. They will all be mailed after Jan. 1 to those participating in the historic venture.

About 250 individuals received invitations offering them the opportunity to attend the special ceremony a half hour after the Mint usually closes to the general public. Those attending had to pass security clearance by providing their Social Security number, date and place of birth, and other pertinent information.

Mint Director Philip N. Diehl acted as host. Also attending, striking coins, and speaking to the assembles group were Mary Ellen Withrow, treasurer of the United States; Glenna Goodacre, the sculptor who brought Sacagawea to life; Thomas Rogers, the sculptor whose reverse soaring eagle gives vitality to the flip side of the coin; and Randy’L He-dow Teton, the Shoshone Indian college student used as a live model by Goodacre in her task.

Among the additional honored guests were the entire family of Teton and Saundra Todd, a direct descendant of Sacagawea. In an interview at the Mint, not far from the site of the striking, she revealed her descent through her great-great-grandfather. She still lives in Idaho, not far from where Sacagawea is thought to have spent her last years.

The first strike ceremony took place in the lobby of the Philadelphia Mint. It provides an intimate setting with good security.

Traditional coining presses were not used, either. The HME hydraulic press, giving off 95.4 tons of pressure on a single strike, resulting in a high relief strike that looked altogether pleasing not only to Diehl, Withrow, Goodacre, Rogers and Teton, but to the audience as well.

Withrow praised the design as an “image that tells our American history,” as many others remarked at how beautiful – and easy to identify – the new coin seemed.