The U.S. Mint conducted metallurgical tests in 1999 on the golden colored manganese-clad planchets which would later be used for the Sacagawea Dollar.
For the first time, the U.S. Mint included representatives from Industry because the new Sacagawea Dollar would have to be completely interchangable with the existing SBA Dollar. The electromagnetic fingerprint had to be identical. All of the metals combined changed the alloy’s electromagnetic properties. Many tests were conducted including those at IDX Inc., Olin Brass and PMX Industries.
In a Coin World article on July 16th, 2001, James Halsey, President of IDX Inc. was interviewed. IDX Inc. is one of the firms contracted by the U.S. Mint to test prototypes. Mr. Halsey said “numerous samples in different alloys bearing the Martha Washington obverse and Mt. Vernon reverse dies - special designs used for experimental coinage - were shipped to IDX Inc. for testing. Some of the packages were insured for as high as $250,000, with the recipients required to return any and all pieces supplied by the Mint for tests.”
Two other firms under contract by the U.S. Mint include Olin Brass and PMX Industries. Both of these companies supply the U.S. Mint with the manganese-clad strips from which the Sacagawea Dollars are struck. Olin Brass is a leading U.S. copper alloy producer and is located in East Alton, Illinois. PMX Industries is located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
According to a Coin World article in the June 24, 2002 issue, “anti-tarnish tests were conducted at the Philadelphia Mint on January 8, 2000, on Sacagawea dollar blanks struck with the experimental Martha Washington obverse, Mount Vernon reverse experimental dies, according to Mint e-mails.” The article continued: “Seven processes were explored: one on circulation quality strikes, three on Uncirculated [Mint set] quality coins, and three on Proof quality strikes. The coins were struck on at least four different kinds of presses, with the blanks subjected to one of five burnishing methods.”
I discovered one of the three known Martha Washington Test Pieces struck on a Sacagawea Dollar blank planchet. It was certified by NGC as a dollar-sized test piece weighing 8.0 grams and was graded MS 66. It is listed as Judd #2185 on page 294 of eighth edition of United States Pattern Coins, Experimental and Trial Pieces.
This Martha Washington Test Piece struck on a clad SBA blank planchet was just discovered so obviously it is not listed in the 8th Edition of Judd, which photographs and lists other Martha Washington Test Pieces.