Meant to encourage the public to carry dollar coins, The Susan B. Anthony dollar was considerably smaller than its predecessor, the Eisenhower dollar. Though the government commissioned the Research Triangle Institute in 1975 to research and make recommendations for the new coin, only one suggestion was accepted; the coin became smaller. (The research firm also suggested the new coin should have a distinctive edge, be a different color than the quarter and be accompanied by a major marketing campaign.)
While Lady Liberty was originally planned to be featured on the coin, women’s organizations lobbied for a real woman. In 1978, William Proxmire suggested the coin bear the image of suffragette Susan B. Anthony. Though other women were proposed, Anthony prevailed, and on October 10, 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed the bill approving production of the coin.
Though there were high hopes for the coin, which would result in savings both in production costs and a longer expected circulation life, the Treasury Department’s marketing campaign was on a small scale. Anticipation of the coin’s success caused vending companies to retrofit machines at the cost of $100-$500 per machine. Released on July 2, 1979, the coins were quickly discovered to be easily confused for quarters, especially in dim lighting. They were not universally welcomed by the public; some were offended by what they saw as feminist propaganda. By 1981, the coins were minted only for collectors, then production ceased altogether. The coins stockpiled at the Mint were not depleted until mid-1999.