A study commissioned by Congress in 1976 to assess the nation's future coinage needs attributed the failure of the clad dollar to its large size and recommended a smaller dollar coin in its place. Authorized by the Act of October 10, 1978, the Susan B. Anthony Dollar was designed and sculpted by Chief Engraver Frank Gasparro, who simply reduced his Eisenhower Dollar reverse for the new mini dollar.
Produced in large numbers during 1979-80 by three mints, the Susan B. Anthony Dollars simply piled up in federal reserve vaults. The 1981 emission was struck solely for inclusion in the annual uncirculated coin sets for collectors, a tacit admission that the experiment had failed. Anthony Dollars were issued as change by post office vending machines, and they were also used by some transit systems, but otherwise the coin remained nearly invisible for its entire lifetime. The supply was gradually drawn down by this somewhat forced distribution, but the Anthony Dollars rarely returned to actual circulation.
Susan B. Anthony Dollar production of was suspended after 1981, though never officially terminated. Anthony Dollars were superseded in 2000 by another coin of similar size but radically different composition and appearance. Asserting that the supply of dollar coins on hand was inadequate, the U. S. Mint produced several million Anthony Dollars near the end of 1999. Most of these coins seem to have ended up with collectors and speculators.
As with the Eisenhower Dollar before it, once collectors had acquired a roll or two of the 1979 Susan B. Anthony Dollars upon their release that July, interest quickly faded. The small size of this brief series prompted many to assemble a set, but little thought was given to the grading of these coins until years later. The eleventh-hour coinage of 1999 sparked a revival of interest in Anthony Dollars, and this time there was greater emphasis on acquiring high-quality examples.
There are very few Susan B. Anthony Dollar die varieties within the short series, and interest is quite limited. Proof 1979 and 1981 'S' Anthony Dollar mintmark varieties have a following, which used transitional punches for the proofs, and the scarcer second varieties for each of these years command premiums. Also desired by variety collectors is the so-called "near date" Anthony Dollar die variety of 1979-P, on which the rim is broader and thus closer to the date.