New dollar coins already getting a bad rap

The new dollar coins haven’t even been released to the public yet and experts are already predicting failure. The reason? People prefer bills to coins.

“I suspect that a dollar coin is very unlikely to circulate as long as dollar notes are available,” said Kevin Foley, a Milwaukeean who is general chairman of the Central States Numismatic Society Convention. “A dollar note is so much more convenient for people to carry. I think these coins will be items that will be hoarded by people with a collecting interest rather than actually circulating.”

The U.S. Mint unveiled designs for the first four new $1 coins in the series, which bear the portraits of presidents George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, in Washington, D.C., on Monday.

The golden coins, which are identical in color and size to the Sacagawea dollar introduced in 2000, will be put into circulation in February. The coins will honor four deceased presidents each year, with a new one appearing every three months, in the order they served.

The congressional act calling for the program stated that Americans who don’t like using a $1 coin would change their ways if it had “an attractive, educational rotating design.” The Mint is hoping the program will be as successful and popular as the rotating 50-state quarter program, which, starting in 1999, put a bit of each state’s history on the flip side of the 25-cent piece. The quarters are used in commerce but also saved by collectors.

Congress said there are sectors of the economy - transportation fares, for instance - in which a $1 coin is both “useful and desirable.” From a practical standpoint, each $1 coin is a lot more durable than a $1 bill. While the coins could circulate for decades, the life span of a dollar bill is about 22 months.

But local coin experts say not to count on seeing $1 coins in your change. It’s one thing to carry around a metal quarter because there is no alternative to it, while it’s another to choose a metal coin over lightweight paper that slips easily into a wallet.

“I think the government is spinning its wheels again on a project that really isn’t going to get to first base,” said Rollie Finner, a coin collector in the Waupaca County community of Iola. “It’s the dollar-sized coin that people have shunned. The Susan B. Anthony fell flat on its face, and the Sacagawea, for all its hype, fell flat on its face, too.”

The silver-colored Susan B. Anthony coin first appeared in 1979.

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