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Berko: Cheerios Sacagawea dollars rare and valuable find

By Malcolm Berko
Published: June 12, 2016, 6:05am

Dear Mr. Berko: I read your column about the Quaker Oats land certificates and wish I had kept mine. One of the guys at the shop where I work (we all read and discuss your column) seems to remember that Cheerios once stuffed cereal boxes with Sacagawea dollars and says some of those coins are now worth several thousand dollars. He says he remembers finding such a coin in his Cheerios box. He thinks he put it in his sock drawer, but he can’t find it. He also thinks it was in a presentation holder. What do you know about this?

— HG, Vancouver

Dear HG: Sacagawea was the young Shoshone Indian woman who, between 1804 and 1806, successfully led the famous Lewis and Clark expedition through the unchartered American interior to the Pacific Northwest and safely back again.

In December 1999, the U.S. Mint began minting $1 gold-colored coins dated 2000, using the motif of Sacagawea. Conceived by artist Glenna Goodacre, the obverse of the Cheerio dollar depicts Sacagawea carrying Jean Baptiste, her infant son, on her back. The reverse side shows an eagle in flight, and that was designed by U.S. Mint engraver Thomas Rogers Sr. These coins were not released to the Federal Reserve Bank till late January 2000. However, via a special promotion (of 5,500 coins) between the U.S. Mint and General Mills (GIS-$64), some Cheerios devotees began finding the Sacagawea dollars inside their cereal boxes in early January of that year. One out of every 2,000 Cheerios boxes contained a gold-colored coin, and 1 in 4,400 boxes contained a certificate redeemable for 100 Sacagawea dollars.

A payment of 5,000 of these dollars with a special finish was given to Goodacre for her obverse design. Unlike the Sacagawea dollars in circulation, these coins were struck on burnished planchets, giving them a prooflike appearance. Because Goodacre wanted her presentation coins to be preserved and permanently identified, she had her 5,000 coins certified and sealed by Independent Coin Graders. Goodarce then sold 250 (one at a time) of those dollars for $200 each and netted $50,000 for her work. Today each of those Goodacre Cheerios dollars is worth somewhere between $6,500 and $9,000.

Then, in 2005, several numismatists began to notice a difference between the mass-produced Sacagawea dollars and the Sacagawea Cheerios dollars. All Sacagawea dollars had Rogers’ eagle on the reverse; however, on the Cheerios dollars, the U.S. Mint struck the eagle’s tail feathers with a higher definition. On the Cheerios dollars, the tail feathers have deep veins, and there’s a raised central shaft on the center feather. But on the coins struck for circulation, the details on the feathers are smoothed down, and the shaft on the central feather is incused.

Well, what may not seem like much of a difference became a big difference because all U.S. coins that vary from the original mass-produced strike are exciting and important news to collectors. And because only 5,500 of these Sacagawea dollar coins have the variant (over a billion coins were produced by the U.S. Mint), they are considered rare, and that makes them valuable.

Most of the coins were taken from the cereal boxes and used as common currency to purchase candy, drinks or snacks and became part of the general circulation, whereas others were just tossed and lost. It’s estimated that fewer than 800 of these Cheerios dollars are accounted for. In 2007, a mint-condition Cheerios dollar was auctioned for $11,500. Today, some nine years later, collectors estimate that the rare Sacagawea Cheerios dollar could auction for between $22,000 and $30,000. And if the lucky stiffs who got a certificate for 100 Cheerios dollars kept their coins, they’d be worth between $2.2 million and $3 million.

Malcolm Berko addresses questions about stocks. Reach him at P.O. Box 8303, Largo, FL 33775 or mjberko@yahoo.com.