Grade 6-8

Agent Pincher: The Case of the missing Susan B. Anthony Dollar

Updated: March 13 2020,
Author: Abbejean Kehler

Agent Penn E. Pincher is again called out on a case. It seems that in 1979 the U.S. Bureau of Engraving launched a new one-dollar coin. However, most citizens haven’t seen it in several years. This case may be from the ‘cold case files’ – the files for cases that no one was able to solve. Agent Pincher examines what money is, how it functions, what makes something money and the advantages of using money. In the end, the students are asked to explain why the Susan B. Anthony dollar does not receive wide circulation.


Susan B. AnthonyIn order to understand money, the students must first discover what it is and is not; they must also learn what its functions are. In this lesson, the students are asked to discover why the Susan B. Anthony dollar is generally not in circulation. But before they can solve that mystery, they learn about barter, the characteristics of money, and the functions of money.

Learning Objectives

  • Identify advantages and disadvantages of using a barter system.
  • Explain the four characteristics of money: portability, divisibility, durability and wide acceptance.
  • Consider items that might be used as money, using the four characteristics of money to determine for each item whether it would or would not be effectively used as money.
  • Identify the functions of money.
  • Use knowledge about money to solve the mystery of the unused Susan B. Anthony coins.

Resource List


The students will need a copy of the Agent's Notebook. Choose whether or not you want the students to work on theiragent own, in small groups or as a class to do the research to solve the mystery of the missing Susan B. Anthony dollar. Direct the students to keep their notes (from class discussions, lessons and their own research) in the Agent's Notebook.

Assignment 1

  1. Barter Better Race. Print Round One and Round Two game sheets out and cut them up.

    • Round 1. Provide each student with a square from the Barter Better Race, and instruct the students to stay in their seats. The individual who receives the card that says he or she has a music CD will have to walk from student to student making trades — trying to make trades that will eventually give him or her the phone card. Time how long it takes for this student to make all the trades.
    • Round 2. Inform the students that each of these items is worth $5. Provide each student with a $5 card and ask the students to try to buy the items they would be willing to trade or exchange as per their card from Round One.

      • Time this transaction (it should be considerably faster)
      • Debriefing questions:

        1. How long did the first set of trades take?
        2. Why did so many items have to be exchanged?
        3. What is a double coincidence of wants?
  2. Money: What Should We Use?
    In class discussion, use Characteristics Chart either as a student handout or an overhead transparency.
  3. How Does Money Function?
    In class discussion, use How Does Money Function Chart either as a student handout or overhead.
  4. Money: You Choose
    You may use this handout for students working individually or in small groups, or for the whole class. A suggested answer sheet is provided, but this should be used only as a guideline.

Assignment 2

The students need to know something about the history of the Susan B. Anthony dollar in order to solve the mystery of the coin.Have the students read this biography on Susan B. Anthony to view a good source of information about the Susan B. Anthony coin.

Knowledge of how money is made and circulated is also important for this case. The students will need to view this page on to learn about the life of a dollar.

The students will record their findings in their Agent's Notebooks.

Assignment 3

JUST IN! Eyewitnesses have reported sightings of a golden-colored coin with the same characteristics as the Susan B. Anthony dollar. Have the students investigate this new coin. Research on this coin will affect the student's investigation of the disappearance of the Susan B. Anthony coin. Our intelligence department has been able to find a source describing the new coin. Have the students view the U.S. Mint website and look at the Native American $1 Coin Act page for more details.

Have the students record their findings in their Agents' Notebooks.

Assignment 4

The students will answer the final questions in their Agents' Notebooks.


Susan B. Anthony dollarUnderstanding money goes beyond the ability to recognize coins and make appropriate change. Not just anything will serve as money: If it’s money, it must be durable, divisible, portable and generally accepted. Students also deepen their understanding of money by learning about the functions of money. Money functions as a medium of exchange, a store of value and a unit of account. With the mystery of the Susan B. Anthony dollar, the students should be able to use knowledge they have learned concerning money and money’s functions to develop a hypothesis.


The students integrate what they have learned to decide for themselves why the Susan B. Anthony dollar was not generally used in the marketplace. They also forecast the future of the Sacagawea dollar. They may write out their explanations and forecasts in their Agents’ Notebooks or in the form of a separate written assignment.