U.S. Coin Designer Series: Glenna Goodacre

It is not often that we get to say “the woman behind the coin design.” While women have had their fair share of breakthroughs in the numismatic business, it still is a predominantly male hobby. However, the work of this next artist speaks for itself as her decades of experience and works across the arts helped her design one of the most popular United States coins still in use today.

Glenna Goodacre

Born in Lubbock, Texas, in 1939, Glenna Goodacre grew up with an interest in the arts. Focusing on painting and sculpting, she would graduate from high school and attend Colorado College to further her education in the arts. She would also attend the Art Students League in New York to continue her studies. Early in her career, painting would be her focus and she became very successful as a painter. However, she would eventually settle into sculpting in the late 1960s as she entered her 30s. The next decades would see her continued growth and experience in the arts as she became highly skilled in sculpting.

In the early 1980s, Goodacre and her husband would move to New Mexico. Ten years later in 1993, she would end up sculpting one of her most famous works: Vietnam Women’s Memorial. Unveiled on November 11, 1993, (Veteran’s Day) the bronze sculpture was created to honor the 11,000 women who served during the Vietnam War. Located at the National Mall in Washington, D.C, this work helped launch her career even more as her reputation quickly began to heighten. It was then, a few years later, she would be chosen out of 100+ artists from all over the world to work on the Irish Famine Memorial located in Philadelphia. The bronze monument honors the 150th anniversary of the Great Hunger in Ireland and features 35 life-sized figures. It was finished in 2003 and installed at Penn’s Landing where it overlooks the Delaware River.

In 1998, Goodacre would complete an eight-foot-tall statue depicting the 40th President of the United States, Ronald Reagan. It was revealed at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California. She would go on to create more life-sized statues in her career including General (and future President) Dwight Eisenhower, Scott Joplin (American composer and pianist), Katherine Porter (American journalist, essayist, short story writer, novelist, and political activist), and Greer Garson (British-American actress and singer).

On December 1, 1997, President Bill Clinton would sign the 50 States Commemorative Coin Program Act which also included the United States $1 Coin Act of 1997. This act authorized the production of a golden colored $1 coin that would have visible features and distinct edges to identify it from other United States coins. Coming off the heels of the failed Susan B. Anthony dollar program, the new coin was to be small and hopefully more successful. Invitations for the new design of the dollar would go out to just 23 artists and sculptors. Glenna Goodacre would be one of them.

Entering the nationwide competition in 1999, Goodacre would use Randy’L He-dow Teton as the model for the bust of Sacagawea. The requirements of the new coin stated that the obverse must depict Sacagawea and the reverse would need to feature an eagle to represent the freedom and peace of the nation. Teton, who would attend the nearby University of New Mexico, was a part of the American Indian Shoshone tribe just like Sacagawea was. Goodacre’s obverse would feature the important figure carrying her baby Jean Baptiste Charbonnea and ultimately be the winner of the competition. The reverse of the golden dollar would end up being designed by Thomas D. Rogers.

The new coin was first struck on November 18, 1999, during a ceremony featuring special guests and dignitaries. It would officially be released in 2000. The first year of issue would see over a billion of the coins produced from all the U.S. Mints. Although golden in color, they did not contain any trace of gold and instead were 88.5% copper, 6.0% zinc, 3.5% manganese, and 2% nickel. They have been struck every year since, although they were only struck for sale to collectors from 2002-2008 until the Federal Reserve Bank stopped ordering them beginning in 2009. They still feature Goodacre’s design on the obverse but feature the date and motto IN GOD WE TRUST instead on the incused edges. They are still sold in rolls and bags to collectors from the Mint in addition to being featured in annual sets like the Clad Proof Set, Silver Proof Set, and Uncirculated Mint Set.

While the Sacagawea dollar was perhaps one of her most notable works, she would continue on producing sculptures and artwork. She won numerous awards during her career including being inducted into the West Texas Hall of Fame in Lubbock and receiving honorary doctorate degrees from Colorado College (her alma mater) and Texas Tech University which is located in her hometown. She was also appointed to the State Quarter Design Committee by the Governor of New Mexico in 2004 to oversee and provide feedback for the design of the New Mexico quarter that is used in the 50 State Quarter Program.

The year 2009 marked 40 years in her career as a sculptor and artist. The next year she would receive the Christopher and Dana Reeve Inspiration Award given to her by the Craig Hospital Foundation in Denver. Also in 2010, her designs for the Sacagawea dollar were included in the Smithsonian Numismatic Collection in Washington, D.C., in honor of its 10th Anniversary.

Over her career, she produced more than 500 works displayed across more than 40 countries in public, private, municipal, and museum settings. Unfortunately, Goodacre passed in April of 2020.

Source: USA Coinbook