I don’t know much about James Benfield, other than he was the director of the Coin Coalition until his death in 2002.
In the 1990s, the Coin Coalition was lobbying Congress for the introduction of a new dollar coin to replace the SBA; and for the elimination of the penny and the one dollar note.
Although at the time I disagreed with their goal of eliminating the penny, I did support James’ efforts to introduce a new one dollar coin.
I’ve always been a fan of the one dollar coin, and back in the 1980s and the 1990s, I used to buy rolls of Susan B. Anthony dollars from banks to use for my daily spending cash. My aim was to do my small bit to increase general circulation of the coin.
I discovered that people didn’t like the SBA – and that, true to the rumor, it was often confused with a quarter. I liked the design of the dollar coin, with its eleven-sided border design, circle of stars, and classic portrait of Susan B. Anthony. I was puzzled, though, as to why the it wasn’t gold colored nor did it have a smooth edge.
In an effort to reduce the amount of resistance that my SBA spending attempts were often met with, I decided to correct one of the two design deficiencies by electroplating the dollars with gold prior to spending them. For $24.00 I bought a quart of gold electroplating solution, some alligator clips, and a transformer from Radio Shack.
Every weekend I would gold plate a roll or two worth of SBAs, roll them back up, and use them for my spending throughout the week. I knew that gold is a soft metal and that the plating would quickly wear off as the coin was handled—but my goal was just to get them out into circulation, and I figured even worn-off gold plating would succeed in making sure that the coins were distinctive.
These freshly-plated gold coins were accepted at every cash register without question, without hassle, and without even a blink; a far cry from the criticisms and refusals that the SBA had formerly faced. Even though no one had ever seen a golden dollar before, they instinctively knew what they were.
My interactions with James Benfield were minimal and were mostly limited to a few telephone conversations. During one of these conversations, I told him what I had been doing with my gold plated Susan B. Anthony dollars. He asked me if I would be willing to send him some, so that he could show them to a few people around Congress.
I did so, along with my thanks for his work.
I have no idea if these gold-plated SBAs were any factor in the creation of the Sacagawea Golden Dollar. But I like to think that they were.
Originally published at dollar-coin.nu