Mint explores ways to boost use of golden dollar

The U.S. Mint will consider cutting the number of Susan B. Anthony dollars in circulation as part of a plan to boost use of the golden dollar coin, Mint Director Henrietta Holsman Fore told a Senate panel on Friday.

Popular with collectors and profitable for the government, the golden dollar has yet to make a dent in daily commerce, where the dollar bill is used in more than 90 percent of all $1.00 transactions. A variety of problems--including how golden dollars are distributed and their resemblance to the Susan B. Anthony dollar--have kept retailers from embracing the coin, Fore said.

"Not only can it be difficult to get rolls of golden dollars; sometimes it is difficult to get golden dollars at all," she said in testimony before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Treasury. Some convenience stores have special coin dispensers that cannot use dollar coins, and the Federal Reserve--which distributes currency to banks--is unable to separate golden dollars from Susan B. Anthony dollars in its coin shipments.

Susan B. Anthony dollars are easily confused with quarters and unpopular with retailers. The golden dollar bears the likeness of Sacagawea, the Shoshone woman who helped Meriwether Lewis and William Clark explore the American West. It has a smooth edge, making it easily distinguishable from other coins by touch alone.

On March 31, the Mint halted nearly all production of the golden dollar for the rest of 2002 because of lagging demand from retailers and the economic recession. The Mint still plans to produce at least 10 million golden dollar coins for collectors this year.

The Mint will study ways to get the coin in the hands of more retailers, according to Fore. They will also look at reducing the number of Susan B. Anthony dollars in circulation or developing a process to automatically separate the two coins, which could be expensive, she said. The Mint also plans to step up advertising for the golden dollar. The agency has reached an agreement with NASCAR that will allow the coin to be dispensed at NASCAR racetracks. Nine minor league baseball teams already use the golden dollar at concession stands in their ballparks. But few federal agencies distribute the dollar, according to Fore.

"If every defense installation across the country used golden dollars in their cash registers at base exchanges, military banks and credit unions…the golden dollar would circulate more widely and be used more regularly," she said.

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