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Third time's the charm?

Byline: The Register-Guard

Americans have been singularly resistant to the dollar coin, and the production numbers tell the story. The U.S. Mint has issued 7.7 million Sacagawea dollar coins so far in 2006, while releasing 2.5 billion 25-cent pieces through its 50 State Quarters program. The mint hopes some of the luster of its wildly successful quarters enterprise will rub off on a new dollar coin, but acceptance may prove more elusive than profitability.

In its new program, the mint will issue four dollar coins a year bearing the likeness of former U.S. presidents, beginning with George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison in 2007. Collectors will have to wait until 2016 for the Richard Nixon coin, by which time a few more presidents may have been added to the list - no living or recently deceased former presidents will be featured.

The mint has long sought to introduce a dollar coin, partly because coins are more durable than paper bills, which must be replaced every 18 months or so. Transit systems, businesses with coin-operated equipment and some retailers have also pressed for a dollar coin. But neither the Susan B. Anthony dollar, introduced in 1979, nor the golden coin bearing a portrait of Sacagawea and her infant son have caught on with the public.

The new presidential dollar coins will be the same size, weight and color as the Sacagawea coins, ensuring compatibility in coin slots and change trays. They'll have the words "E Pluribus Unum," "In God We Trust," the year of issuance and the mint marking engraved on the edge, the first edge lettering on a U.S. coin since 1931. A provision in the Presidential $1 Coin Act of 2005 requires federal agencies and some recipients of federal aid to accept the new coins - but even with such coercion, it's hard to see why the presidential dollars would be more widely used than those that came before.

Consumer acceptance, however, is only one way to measure success. The Mint believes the presidential dollar coins will be a hit with collectors, just as the state quarters have been. Every dollar coin that sits in a drawer or in a safe deposit box represents a one-dollar loan to the U.S. government at no interest. A collector who keeps one of each of the coins will learn that Martin Van Buren was the eighth president and other facts of U.S. history, while also giving the Treasury a profit of $37 minus the cost of production.

Americans may one day find a Fillmore, Taft or Hoover coin useful for feeding parking meters and vending machines. So far, the public prefers paper dollars. The Mint will be pleased if people begin using the new coins - and if they do, watch for the phase-out of the dollar bill. It will also be pleased each time a presidential coin vanishes from circulation and goes into a collection.
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Title Annotation:Editorials; Mint tries again with $1 coin
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Nov 27, 2006
Words:491
Previous Article:What's in a name?
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