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Extra2/12/2007 12:59 PM ET

Another day, another dollar coin

For the third time in less than 30 years, a new $1 coin will be introduced to a skeptical U.S. public. Three-fourths of Americans say they would oppose replacing the dollar bill.

By The Associated Press

Maybe Susan B. Anthony and Sacagawea should not take public rejection personally. It's not easy overcoming Americans' indifference to dollar coins, even those honoring such historic figures.

An AP-Ipsos poll says three-fourths of people surveyed oppose replacing the dollar bill with a dollar coin. People are evenly split on the idea of having both a dollar bill and a dollar coin.

A new version of the coin, paying tribute to American presidents, goes into general circulation Thursday. Even though doing away with the bill could save hundreds of millions of dollars a year in printing costs, there is no plan to scrap the bill in favor of the more durable coin.

"I really don't see any use for it," Larry Ashbaugh, a retiree from Bristolville, Ohio, said of the dollar coin. "We tried it before. It didn't fly."

Two recent efforts to promote wide usage of a dollar coin proved unsuccessful. A quarter-century ago, it showed feminist Susan B. Anthony on the front. Then one in 2000 featuring Sacagawea, the Shoshone Indian who helped guide the Lewis and Clark expedition.

The new dollar coin will bear Washington's image, followed later this year by those of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. A different president will appear on the golden dollar coins every three months.

The series of coins will depict four different presidents each year, in the order they served. Congress voted to create the latest dollar coin, betting that this series would be more popular than its recent predecessors.

The Susan B. Anthony dollar put the image of the women's-rights activist on a small silver coin that looked a lot like a quarter. The U.S Mint was left with millions of unused coins. As for the Sacagawea dollar, gold in color, millions of the coins also piled up in bank vaults for the same reason: lack of demand.

Traditional greenback preferred

People say they just prefer the traditional greenback.

"The dollar bill is lighter, takes up less space in a clutch or a man's wallet, and paper money counts easier and stacks up easier than metallic coins," said Nena Wise of York, Pa.

People have strong feelings about their money, even the penny.

A congressional effort to reduce the need for the one-cent piece failed even though it costs more to produce the copper-colored coin than the coin is worth.

When people were asked whether the penny should be eliminated, 71% said no, according to the poll of 1,000 adults conducted Nov. 28-30. Some fear that getting rid of the penny will cause product prices to be rounded up, perhaps increasing inflation.

In other poll findings:

  • 53% said they carry their loose change collected during the day to use for future purchases.

  • 42% put their loose change in a jar or piggy bank each day.

  • 48% said they use cash for purchases under $10.

  • 28% said they usually use cash in such cases but sometimes use credit or debit cards, according to the poll, which had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Rather than a high-profile ad campaign like the one used to introduce the Sacagawea dollar, the Mint is trying a more grass-roots approach. The agency is talking to the Federal Reserve, banks and vending-machine operators to stir up interest in the new dollar coin.

Supporters of the new presidential dollar coin point to the success of the 50-state quarter program. Begun in 1999, this program has introduced millions of people to coin collecting for the first time.

For Richard Wander of Albany, N.Y., the dollar coin is a welcome addition because he is "kind of a collector."

"I think it's good to have both," he said. "Instead of taking time to put four quarters in a parking meter, you could put in a dollar.

"But I think dollar bills are part of the economic system," he said, "and they work fine."

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U.S. Mint officials are staking the future of the $1 coin on the ultimate American icon: George Washington.

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The presidential coins will be the 14th dollar-coin series produced by the Mint going back to 1794. The Susan B. Anthony replaced the Eisenhower dollar in 1979.

Before the Eisenhower dollar's introduction in 1971, there was a gap of 36 years when the Mint did not produce a dollar coin after the last Peace dollar was minted in 1935.

The public can start getting the Washington dollars Thursday from commercial banks that have placed orders with the Federal Reserve, which handles coin distribution for the Mint.

U.S. Mint Director Edmund C. Moy said he was encouraged by the initial demand for the new coin. The Fed has ordered 300 million Washington dollars so far.

This article was reported and written by Will Lester for The Associated Press.

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