SALT LAKE CITY (AP) â€” Millions of the new Sacagawea golden dollar coins are in circulation.
Trouble is, normally spend-happy Americans are squirreling away the coins instead of using them as pocket change.
``People are hoarding them. They get them in change and because they haven't seen them before, they'll save it,'' said H. Robert Campbell, president of the American Numismatic Association and owner of All About Coins in Salt Lake City. ``They are almost spellbound by the coins.''
Customers are snapping up uncirculated dollar coins that Campbell is selling at his store for $2 each.
The golden-colored coins were introduced in January. It depicts the young Shoshone Indian woman who accompanied explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to the Pacific Ocean in 1805.
Within its first four months of existence, 500 million Sacagawea coins were in circulation, U.S. Mint officials said. By this summer, shipments of the new Golden Dollar coins are expected to exceed 1 billion, with 6 million new coins being minted each day.
In contrast, the Susan B. Anthony coin was a disappointment. In the past 21 years, just 921 million Susan B. Anthony dollar coins have been minted.
The U.S. Mint has been trying to persuade people to circulate the dollars with a $40 million ad campaign featuring the face of George Washington from the dollar bill. Nationwide, 18 major transit authorities, including those in New York, Chicago, Boston and San Diego, have pledged to use the new dollar coins, Mint officials said.
At New York's Rockefeller Center, the vending machines for the subway's Metrocard accept the new coins. But some people there said they had never even seen one.
``I've never held one, so I can't say what I think,'' said David Winkler, a Manhattan contractor.
Then there are the collectors such as Meredith Tranberg, a customer service manager at Macy's who lives in Manhattan
``I like them,'' she said. ``I collect them and hardly ever spend them, although I think I've used them on the bus a few times.''
On the trolleys in San Diego, riders also can pay the fare with the dollar coins. But transit department employee Frances Batiste hasn't had anyone purchase tickets using the Sacagawea dollar at her kiosk.
``I don't think they're that popular,'' Batiste said. ``I don't know what to think about them because I haven't seen them. ... I think maybe some people are saving them for collectors items.''
Glenna Goodacre, the Santa Fe, N.M., sculptor who designed the image of the young Sacagawea, is doing her part to get the coins in circulation.
``I love to carry them with me and give them away. But I'm amazed how many people have never seen one,'' Goodacre said.
Randy'L He-dow Teton, a recent art history graduate from the University of New Mexico, was the model for the coin's face side. She said she had to spend her first golden dollar after realizing it was the only cash she had.
``I don't even have one of my own,'' she said.
Still, Teton has seen lots of the coins â€” especially from people who recognize her face on them.
``I come across a lot of people who show me the coins and they want me to autograph them, right on the coin,'' she said, somewhat amazed at the request.
On the Net:
The U.S. Mint: http://www.usmint.gov
American Numismatic Association: http://www.money.org