Just before the start of the long Presidents Day holiday weekend in New York City, U.S. Mint director Edmund C. Moy, joined by a throng of commuters and invited guests, placed the new George Washington Presidential dollar coin into circulation Feb. 15 in Vanderbilt Hall of historic Grand Central terminal.
Members of the general public were then invited to buy $25 rolls of uncirculated ?P? mint coins that feature the ?$1? symbol instead of being written out and a unique lettered edge bearing the date, mintmark and the mottoes ?E Pluribus Unum? and ?In God We Trust? incused into the metal.
Hundreds of commuters at New York?s busiest railroad terminal stood on line for 20 minutes or longer to buy the rolls from Mint personnel. Cash only was the order of the day, though my own purchase consisted of a $20 bill, four singles and a VF 1877-S Trade dollar that the Mint cashier first asked about, then accepted as a legal tender to complete the transaction. (See Page 38). Some 68,000 of the new coins were released to the public in this manner.
About 50 schoolchildren, by the looks of them third graders, came from a local school to witness the event and interact with a veteran character actor who depicts a very lifelike George Washington in the September of his years.
Moy presented each schoolchild with a souvenir ? a new dollar coin ? and suggested that the ?tooth fairy? raise his fees and allowances, up from a state quarter.
Presidential coins will be produced for circulation at the rate of four per year, so with 43 Presidents at the current time, production may include at least one and possibly more portraits, depending on the results of the elections of 2008, 2012 and beyond. The program initiates in 2007 and would complete in 2018. Only deceased presidents may be included, so while Gerald Ford is not presently eligible, he will be when his turn comes.
Presidential elections take place in 2008, 2012 and 2016, so under the current scenario, the continuity program could consist of at least 45 coins, barring an unforeseen change in succession to the nation?s highest office.
Rep. Michael Castle, R-Del., former chair of the House coinage subcommittee, is the author of the new legislation. He explained the problem with the Sacagawea dollar and circulating commemorative coins in a report bearing his imprint.
?Although it is clear that a widely circulating 1-dollar coin would be useful in ordinary commerce for low-dollar-value transactions, recent attempts to introduce such a coin have been unsuccessful,? the House report begins. The Susan B. Anthony dollar, issued beginning in 1979, and the golden color Sacagawea dollar are both written off as failures.
?Despite ... a large advertising campaign, demand and availability for the so-called ?golden? dollar first issued in 2000 fell drastically after the initial enthusiasm,? the report suggests, adding that ?lack of availability to businesses in packaging of appropriate sizes, and lack of acceptance by many vending machines? doomed the denomination.
The Presidential coinage law attempts to address the barriers to circulation, as well as creating a demand for the coin similar to that for the 50-state quarter program. ?That program more than tripled demand for the quarter dollar because both professional and amateur collectors alike sought the various designs,? the House reports.
Changing designs ?with the images of the Presidents on the obverse combined with use of the Statue of Liberty on the reverse? and a ?series of pure-gold bullion coins featuring images of the First Spouses, to be issued in the same order and rate as the Presidential dollars, so that the dollar and bullion coins could, for example, be sold in pairs? is the proffered solution.
In keeping with the educational theme established by the 50-state quarter program, one President (to date) would have two coin designs, as he served non-sequential terms ? Grover Cleveland ? two Presidents would have two spouse coins as they remarried while in office (Tyler and Wilson) and several would have no spouse coins, as they were not married while in office.
For all of those except Chester A. Arthur, the coin would feature on the face the image of Liberty as represented by a circulating coin of the period; in the case of President Arthur, the image on the face would be that of Alice Paul, a suffragette strategist born during his term.
Bronze copies of the bullion coins would be made available at a nominal cost for those who wanted to collect sets of First Spouses or Presidents and their spouses, but did not wish to pay for the cost of a half-ounce of pure gold, plus processing and marketing costs.? First Spouse coins go on sale in May.
The unveiling in New York initiates a program that took Moy to a dozen other media markets. Ironically, the unveiling took place on Susan B. Anthony?s birthday. Her dollar coin is no longer produced.