I ran into Doc on Sunday. He is a retired physician here in Waupaca County and a casual coin collector. He wanted to talk about the new Presidential $1 coins. Usually he wants to talk politics, so this means that some of the Mint?s public relations work reached him. That?s a good thing.
The nature of his questions was such that the Mint still has a lot of work to do to give the dollar coin a chance.
Doc?s first question was when the new coins would be released. This conversation occurred Feb. 11, just four days prior to the national release date. He was pleased to hear that he would soon be able to get some of the new coins.
His next question was how the Mint was selling them. I replied that they were offering them in the usual sets plus some special sets. He thought that sounded pretty good. I also said that the new dollars would be released through the banking system and he could inquire at his local bank.
?How much are they?? he asked. I was a little startled by this question. I know he doesn?t eat, sleep and breathe coins like I tend to do, but I was a little surprised that he did not make the connection that coins at banks are generally put out at face value. He was very pleased to hear that the price is face value. While he doesn?t mind paying more to acquire sets from the Mint, he is enough old school that the idea of getting coins for face value still rates highly with him.
Now, as you might have guessed, Doc is not a subscriber to Numismatic News. He does know that I am the editor of ?that coin paper up in Iola,? but that is about as far as it goes.
I don?t know whether his local bank over in Weyauwega will have the coins when he makes his inquiry, but I hope so. So does the U.S. Mint.
How long will the public keep an open mind about the new dollar coin before writing it off as a failure like the Sacagawea and the Anthony? I know that I have already written of my experiences with reader feedback regarding the new dollar coins. I am not trying to duplicate that here.
However, during the process of introduction of a new coin, there is that period of time of indeterminate length where the public is surprised, curious and open minded. It is during this period that the Mint has to give it the best shot it can to put the new coin in the best possible light.
When the stories started appearing in the general press in 1979 that the new Anthony dollar looked like a quarter, it was game, set and match. The public never gave the coin a chance after that.
The Sacagawea dollar had a longer honeymoon period. The color alone made the quarter argument sound peculiar. The fact that Wal-Mart was giving it out in change was another plus. But even then, the public never got beyond the curiosity stage and a desire to save a few. The idea of actually carrying them around and using them every day never took root. I tried to spend a few just to see what happened in the checkout lines and gave up. The story was always the same. The clerk would ask what it was. The whole checkout process would slow down as the coin was examined and assurances were given that it was indeed genuine United States legal tender.
When complaints about the Mint?s ad budget for promoting the use of the Sacagawea dollar gained traction in 2000, that was all she wrote for the coin.
America is waiting yet again for a new dollar coin as this is written. Some people are aware of it, especially coin collectors. The Mint has the opportunity to ?sell? these coins to the public. How long that period of time will be, we don?t know. The fact that there are four designs this year makes me wonder whether the door to acceptance will open more than once, or whether we will just settle down to hard core collectors going to their local banks once per calendar quarter to get the latest dollar coin.
Getting that regular collector support is not a bad thing, but let?s see if the Mint tries to get more than that.