100 Greatest U.S. Modern Coins: 1981-S Susan B. Anthony Dollar, Clear S (Type 2), Proof

As far as dollar coins go, the Susan B. Anthony coin is not necessarily on the top of the list as most collectable. As a series that ran for just four years total, with a major gap in between the third and fourth years, it is hard to come by a highly collectible coin featuring the women’s rights activist. However, with such limited minting years, it may have been just the reason there happens to be varieties to collect in the series. Gracing the top 100 of Whitman Publishing’s fourth edition of the 100 Greatest United States Modern Coins list, authors Jeff Garrett and Scott Schechter talk about a specific issue of the Susan B. Anthony coins that collectors find worth pursuing.

#89 – 1981-S Susan B. Anthony Dollar, Clear S (Type 2), Proof

Before 1999, there were only three Proof issues of the Susan B. Anthony dollar. With such a limited number of issues, it became a reason for collectors to seek out rarer issues. Fortunately for them, there were some. In 1979, the San Francisco Proof dollar featured an ‘S’ mintmark that looked more or less like a blob. It was deemed the Type 1 as it was the first version issued and later took on the Filled S descriptor. The Type 2 was later created that same year and described as the Clear S variety as it used a more well-defined mintmark punch. Those variety names were used in 1980 and into 1981 as well.

However, in 1981, an even clearer mintmark was sought out and created. As this happened well into the year of 1981, it was named the Type 1 or the Filled S. While the 1979-S Susan B. Anthony dollar was deemed the Type 1 based on its unclear mintmark punch, the 1981-S coin was the exact opposite. The newer one after that was called the Type 2 or Clear S variety. Authors Garrett and Schechter note that major certifications companies (such as NGC or PCGS) used the Type 1 and Type 2 names while publications refer to the coins as Filled S or Clear S.

Also according to the authors, there are distinctive ways to tell the mintmarks apart without the other types present. One way is that the Type 1 ‘S’ are rounded like an arch at the high points when view in cross section. The top of the Type 2 ‘S’ is flattened and the cross section will then look like a step. Another way is the bulbs at the ends of the ‘S’: if they are thickened and have a circular shaped to the top of the loop, they are a Type 2 coin. The Type 1 in this instance has a smaller, more round serif and the loop at the top of the ‘S’ is pressed tightly together making it look more oval-shaped. Lastly, a good measure to tell the difference between the two is that with the Type 1 variety, the ends of the ‘S’ will most of the time touch at the center of the ‘S’ while the ends of the Type 2 are most of the time disconnected.

Over four million 1981-S Proof Susan B. Anthony dollars were produced, but just a mere fraction of those are the Clear S Type 2 variety. Its low mintage makes them five times more collectable than the Type 1. Some of them can even be found in 1981 Proof Sets.

This selection has moved down quite a bit from its first publication as it was listed at #58.