As part of the promotional activities leading up to the launch of the new series, the US Mint partnered with General Mills to include 5,500 of the new “Golden Dollars” in boxes of Cheerios cereal. It would later be discovered that the 2000 “Cheerios” Sacagawea Dollars featured a prototype reverse design that was different from the final design used for full scale production.
The discovery was not made until 2005, when close examination of the coins revealed differences in the tail feathers of the eagle. As shown in the left side image above, there is a central line apparent and a greater level of detail in the feathers. The right side image shows the appearance of the regular 2000 Sacagawea Dollar. On coins produced for circulation, the central line is recessed and there is considerably less detail in the feathers. The modification was made prior to production for circulation in order to produce a more realistic rendering of the tail feathers. (Images are courtesy of NGC.)
The 2000 “Cheerios” Sacagawea Dollar is considered to be a true pattern, and pieces are somewhat difficult to find. The total number distributed was 5,500 pieces, but a much smaller number is currently known to exist. Because the coins were distributed broadly to the public and the true rarity of the pieces was not discovered until years later, many of the coins were presumably spent into circulation or otherwise misplaced. In late 2008, one of the pattern dollars was actually discovered in circulation by someone searching rolls of small sized dollars. Other pieces may still be in the hands of the original recipients who have no idea of the true value of the coins.
One of the finest Cheerios Sacagawea Dollars graded PCGS MS68 was sold for $34,500 in mid-2008. Prices have seen declined a bit, but the rarity of the issue remains.