In 1998, the Dollar Coin Design Advisory Committee (DCDAC) was convened with the purpose of deciding what woman to portray on a new US “Golden” $1 circulating coin. Committee members included Mint Director Philip Diehl and Delaware Congressman Michael Castle. A brass concept coin featuring Bessie Coleman was designed and presented to the committee in person by Daniel Carr. At one point in the DCDAC deliberations, the Bessie Coleman proposal was in second place behind Sacagawea as the committee’s choice.
A photograph of the brass Bessie Coleman concept coin was taken by an Associated Press (AP) photographer, and that picture was distributed to newspapers across the country (see below). Many newspapers that ran stories about the DCAC meeting also printed that photograph as the only visual record of the meeting.
The obverse of the concept coin shows a portrait of Bessie Coleman, an early aviation pioneer. Renowned for her stunt flying, Bessie Coleman obtained her pilot’s license before Amelia Earhart. At the time this coin was designed in 1998, nobody knew when the US Mint small “golden” dollars would first be issued. So the design was given a “2001” date. At the time this design was first presented in 1998, for the first time ever, a woman had just been assigned the duty of Space Shuttle Mission Commander. The early aviation of Bessie Coleman, combined with the modern space shuttle, show the progress in aviation contributed by women. The 13 stars above the horizon symbolize the future colonization of space. The large “D” represents a “Denver” mint mark. A small “DC” (designer’s initials) are visible at the lower right.
The reverse design of the brass Bessie Coleman concept coin was one of seven US Mint finalists for the reverse of the Sacagawea dollar coin. It features an Eagle soaring across the sun with 50 rays (symbolizing the 50 US states). At the time, there was a proposal to include the word “Peace” on the reverse.
This design was sculpted in 3D by Daniel Carr, and the dies were made using a direct mechanical transfer from the 3D models.
To comply with US regulations, the reverse of the coin is marked “NON DOLLAR” rather than “ONE DOLLAR”.
A silver version of the concept coin was also made by Daniel Carr, which has also been added to the Museum Of UnCut Funk Collection.
With the hype of the upcoming film about the life of Amelia Earhart and her aviation achievements, The Museum of UnCut Funk has acquired the Bessie Coleman coin as part of our collection of Blacks on US currency. The coin highlights the contributions Ms. Coleman made to American History, Black History and the world of aviation.
You can learn more about commemorative currency in our Coins, Medals and Medallions collection and our For The Love Of Money: Blacks On US Currency Exhibition.