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Excitement factor not strong for Presidents

Are you waiting excitedly for the introduction of the new Presidential $1 coins Feb. 15? Some collectors probably are, but if my mail and phone calls are any indication, the introduction of the Presidential dollar is a yawner compared to the Sacagawea dollar introduction seven years ago.

Aside from a call and e-mail or two wondering only where ?In God We Trust? is on the new coins (the edge), collectors seem to be from Missouri this time around. ?Show me? seems to be the unspoken behavior guideline.

Roughly 1.3 billion of the Sacs were struck in their first year of issue in 2000. That was an amazing total. But then, it had a number of things going for it. It was the first new dollar coin since the 1979 introduction of the Susan B. Anthony. Almost a whole generation had passed before the government had gotten up the courage to try the dollar coin again.

The Sac dollar was supposed to be a coin where lessons were learned. Did you think the Anthony dollar looked like a quarter? Well, the Sac was given a new alloy with a golden color. The Mint still calls them Golden dollars.

Did you think Anthony wasn?t particularly good looking? The Sac design was great art with plaudits all around, especially since she wasn?t a past President.

The millennial year 2000 that so captured attention at the time also seemed to encourage the excitement.

But more than that, the Sac dollar was put where people could be exposed to examples on a mass scale: they got them in change at Wal-mart. It was a brilliant idea. If there was a chance at all that a dollar coin could catch on, putting them in the cash registers of America?s largest retailer was the way to do it. But even that didn?t work. The dollar coin passed into collector-only status for most of the years that followed its introduction.

Another thing going for the Sac was the apparent sincerity of government officials in introducing the coin. They sure persuaded the lobbyists who advocate keeping the dollar bill. The lobbyists actually were worried for a time that the coin might replace the paper note.

None of that seems to be true this time. Sure, the Presidential dollar is supposed to be widely available at banks, but you will have to ask for them. Bankers are jealous of the role Wal-mart played the last time, so they have muscled their way back into the game. The outcome of this situation is that the coin?s fate will likely be the same as the Eisenhower dollar, which was introduced by the banks in 1971, and the Anthony dollar, which was introduced by banks in 1979.

Am I being fair to bankers? After all, the Sac did fail without them.

The new gimmick for the Presidential dollars is the fact that there will be four designs a year instead of just one. The hope is that collectors and souvenir hunters will ask for them and collect the whole set. They will indeed ask for them, but that act will not make the coin a successful circulating coin. It might simply shift demand for bagged coins from the Mint to your favorite local bank.

I have ordered bagged half dollars and bagged state quarters from the Mint. I certainly wouldn?t do that if they were available downtown.

I have a roll of 2000-P Sac dollars on my dresser. It has been there for seven years standing on one end. I obtained it locally and it was the high water mark of the Sac?s short popularity. Since then I have often thought that I could use the $25 for this or that reason. But the roll still sits there. I just haven?t had the gumption to take it to my bank to cash it in.

I have learned the Sac does tone very slowly when simply exposed to air, giving the two end coins a mottled look, but it appears it will take many years for this process to truly darken the surfaces.

With the Presidential coins, I know collectors will do their thing, even if not quite as enthusiastically. They will buy the new sets that feature the dollars. The first few of these will have higher mintages than the issues that come afterward, but the new coins will not circulate.

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