Q. David Bowers (edited and updated by Mike Sherman): By 1979, half dollars were rarely seen in circulation. The proliferation of vending machines, arcade machines and other coin-operated devices, most of which dispensed goods or services worth more than a quarter dollar (the highest denomination coin in general circulation at the time) prompted a call for a convenient coin of high value, while a Treasury-sponsored study showed that a metallic dollar had a useful life in circulation of 16 years or more, as compared to only 18 months for a paper dollar. Thus, the new small-diameter dollar was conceived. Frank Gasparro produced the designs.
The obverse depicts suffragette Susan B. Anthony facing to the right, with stars to the left and right and with IN GOD WE TRUST near the right border. LIBERTY is above and the date is below. The reverse is an adaptation of the motif first used on the 1971 Eisenhower dollar and consists of an eagle landing on the moon, with the earth and E PLURIBUS UNUM above and the inscription UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, ONE DOLLAR surrounding.
From the outset, the public confused the small-diameter dollars with the quarter dollars in circulation, much as they did with the twenty cent piece about 100 years earlier. Vending machines were slow to adopt, or did not make provisions to take the new dollar coin, and most cash registers did not have a “bin” in the change drawer for the additional coin. As a result, public resentment was high and the Anthony dollar was unpopular. Mintage was suspended in 1981 after about 860 million were made, the vast majority of these being 1979s. After an 18-year hiatus, an additional 40 million pieces were struck in 1999.
-- Reprinted with permission from "United States Coins by Design Types - An Action Guide for the Collector and Investor" by Q. David Bowers