Buying a box of Cheerios® in January of 2000 bought you more than a good breakfast. You were given one shot at a very special Sacagawea golden coin.
Just a dollar you say? Not quite. These Cheerios dollars are now being sold for several thousand dollars each.
You likely remember the introduction of the Sacagawea golden dollars back in 2000. It’s hard not to remember. The U.S. Mint spent $53,000,000 that year on marketing and advertising just to get your attention.
The Sacagawea space coins and Cheerios dollars
Blasting 12 uniquely made 22-karat gold Sacagawea’s coins into space was certainly an interesting promotional adventure. The special proof coins were sent up on Space Shuttle Columbia in the middle of 1999 – many months before the coins were introduced into circulation.
But perhaps more inspired, was the Mint’s partnership with General Mills. Placing new millennium pennies and 5,500 Sacagawea dollars within 10 million Cheerios boxes was a huge promotional campaign.
Like the space Sacagawea’s, the cereal boxes were on grocery shelves before any of the new coins made it into circulation. Big deal? Yes. During January of 2000, the ONLY place to get a brand new golden dollar was in a Cheerios box. (The coins weren’t released to Federal Reserve Banks until late January.)
Why the Sacagawea Cheerios dollars are treasures – different and valued
The early release of the golden dollars helped create tremendous buzz, but it also forced the Mint to move quick.
General Mills had to have the coins before 2000 so they could have enough time to package them within the various Cheerios boxes and get them onto shelves by January.
And here’s where it gets interesting. The pennies were delivered fine. In fact, so were the 5,500 Sacagawea dollars. However…
The Mint later changed – ever so slightly – the design for the circulating coins. Unlike the new circulating Sacagawea coins that would go to banks and the public, the Cheerios Sacagawea dollars had the same reverse design as those earlier proof, 22-karate space coins.
And because only 5,500 Cheerios dollars were made, they’re very rare and valuable – unlike the over one billion other circulating Sacagawea’s produced in 2000.
What’s the official story? According to the statement from the U.S. Mint released June 17, 2007, by spokeswoman Joyce Harris,
“5,500 Golden Dollars of a ‘high detail’ feather variety (12 tail feathers) were manufactured and shipped to General Mills as part of the Golden Dollar promotion in October 1999, under a detailed arrangement that they not be released until January 2000. Prior to manufacturing the coins for release to the Federal Reserve in 2000, the feather detail was softened and the center tail feather was recessed to solve a die manufacturing issue. Recessing the center tail feather gives the illusion of a 13th feather, but that was not the intent.”
How much are the Sacagawea Cheerios dollars really worth?
The Mint quote was provided in a Coin World article from their November 12, 2007 issue. In that article, they also discuss how a collector on eBay paid $9,999.99 for a 2000-P Sacagawea (Cheerios dollar) graded PCGS MS-66.
On August 10 of this year, a Cheerios dollar was also auctioned by Heritage Auction Galleries for $11,500 in the grade PCGS MS-67. (If you have a Heritage account, you can view that coin’s details here.)
If you’re lucky enough to have one of these Sacagawea Cheerios dollars and it’s in reasonable condition, it’s worth several thousand dollars. If you’re a gambler or enjoy auctions, you can sometimes find the coins or the original Cheerios boxes in auctions like eBay. In fact, there’s one listed today*, November 12, with a current bid of $20.49.
(*Editors Note: The 2000 Cheerios box eventually sold on eBay for $215.01.)
Interesting facts regarding the Sacagawea dollar*
Here are some facts about the Sacagawea dollar Cheerios program:
- It officially started on January 1, 2000
- 11 million Millennium Lincoln cents delivered, one for each box*
- Every 2,000 cereal box contained a 2000-P Sacagawea golden dollar (5,500 coins)
- Every 4,400th box contained a voucher you could redeem for 100 dollar coins
- Estimates were that the Cheerios promotion, via just the cereal boxes, resulted in 132 million exposures to the public (11 million boxes multiplied by 12 avg. servings per box)*
*Mint report indicates 11 million Lincoln cents delivered while packaging indicates 10 million.
These are interesting 2000 Sacagawea manufacturing facts and survey results:
- Each golden dollar cost 12 cents to produce, making 88 cents – Mint deposited more than $800 million in profits of coin to U.S. Treasury
- At the end of 2000, more than one billion Sacagawea were produced and 700 million were released into circulation.
- 83% of American were aware of it
- 78% supported its issuance
- 42% of adults had received one
* Taken from the United States Mint’s Report to Congress, On the Marketing of the Golden Dollar, March 30, 2001
In the end, Sacagawea’s aren’t fairing well in public use
The Sacagawea golden dollars enjoyed a first year marketing blitz, public understanding and solid mintage volume. However, public support from the perspective of using the coins daily just hasn’t happened.
This year and next, only collector versions of the coins will be minted. There isn’t the demand for them with over 100 million Sacagawea dollars still in vaults and the hundreds of millions Presidential $1 coins now being minted
Designs changes are coming for the Sacagawea coin in early 2009 and a new law mandates equalized production numbers compared to presidential dollars. That’s something coin collectors will enjoy but it’s not likely to increase their usage in every day transactions.
The dollar bill is simply too dominate and it’s the real competitor and dollar coin killer.