New $1 Coin Features George Washington

Wednesday, February 14th 2007, 2:48 pm
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ George Washington's birthday celebration will have a golden tinge this year. Millions of new gold-colored dollar coins bearing the first president's likeness are being introduced in time for the festivities.

The question is whether people will reject them as they did the two previous $1 coins.

U.S. Mint officials are hoping they have overcome the problems that doomed the Susan B. Anthony and Sacagawea dollars. Coin experts are skeptical.

The new $1 coins, the first in a series featuring four presidents a year, were to go into circulation on Thursday, just before next week's President's Day celebrations.

To promote the introduction, Mint officials planned to be in Grand Central Terminal in New York City to sell the new dollars to commuters.

Learning from past mistakes, the Mint is making sure the coins will be widely available so people will not be disappointed when they show up at banks looking for the coins.

So far the Federal Reserve, the Mint's distribution agent, has placed orders for 300 million of the Washington coins. Many have already been delivered to commercial banks under orders not to begin selling them to customers until Thursday.

``For the vast majority of Americans, they will be able to get the new dollar coin on the day that we issue it,'' Mint Director Edmund C. Moy said in an interview with The Associated Press.

In another switch from the previous dollar coins, this one will see design changes every three months. Washington will be followed this year by Presidents John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.

Four new presidents will be honored each year in the order they served, in a series that as of now will run into 2016. No former president can be honored on a coin until he has been dead two years.

The changing design is an effort to match the phenomenal success of the 50-state quarter program that has attracted more than 125 million collectors.

The Susan B. Anthony dollar, introduced in 1979, was panned because it easily could be mistaken for a quarter. The new presidential coins will have the same shape, color and metal content as the Sacagawea coins, which were introduced in 2000.

They will be gold-colored and slightly larger and thicker than a quarter. That means the new coins can be used in the same vending machines that accept the Sacagawea coins.

The 2005 legislation that authorized the presidential coins requires that all businesses operating in federal buildings and all city subway and bus systems that accept federal funds must have the capability to accept and dispense the new coins by Jan. 1 of next year.

Moy also has his eyes set on converting parking meters to accept the new dollar coin, noting that motorists spend $14 billion annually just feeding the meters. ``If in even 1 percent of those transactions, people used $1 coins that would be 140 million dollar coins in use,'' he said.

The government is making a more concerted effort to promote the dollar coin this time around. Coin experts, however, said they are not convinced that the results will be much different from with the widely avoided Anthony and Sacagawea coins.

``I don't know of any country that has successfully introduced the equivalent of a dollar coin without getting rid of the corresponding paper unit,'' said Douglas Mudd, the author of a new book on the history of money, ``All the Money in the World.''

Mudd said that Great Britain, Australia and Canada all scrapped their lowest paper currency unit in favor of coins and eventually won public acceptance.

``If the new one-dollar coins are going to win, then one-dollar bills will have to lose,'' said Jeff C. Garrett, president of the Professional Numismatists Guild.

A recent AP-Ipsos poll found that the public by a sizable majority (74 percent to 24 percent) rejected replacing the dollar bill with a dollar coin. But about half in the survey (48 percent) said they would be in favor of a dollar coin being used in addition to the $1 bill.

Officials say there is no intention of eliminating the $1 billion, but they do believe the time is right for greater use of a $1 coin, in part because inflation has raised the cost of many items dispensed by vending machines.

``I think people will be very surprised at how successful this coin is going to be,'' Moy said.