House panel OKs new dollar coins featuring U.S. presidents

A House Financial Services subcommittee approved legislation Wednesday to revitalize the gold dollar coin program by establishing a series of dollar coins that would feature U.S. presidents in the order they served.

Under the measure approved by voice vote by the Domestic and International Monetary Policy Subcommittee, the presidential coin program would start Jan. 1, 2006, with George Washington. The gold coins would resemble the Sacagawea dollar.

"I believe the program is a great opportunity for educating both children and adults about the history of our country," said bill sponsor Rep. Michael Castle, R-Del. "In addition, although it is not the goal of the program, these new coins are likely to generate as much as $5 million for the government."

Castle, who wrote the 50-state quarter program, said the presidential $1 coin program is modeled after it. According to the U.S. Mint, the quarter program has saved the federal government billions of dollars and become so popular that at least one person in every household is collecting every quarter.

In addition to the presidential coins, a new, pure-gold-bullion coin would be minted with images of the first ladies and would be released in sequence with the presidential dollars. There would be two first lady coins for the two presidents who remarried while in office. The image of the Statue of Liberty would be used for presidents who were single while in office. The gold bullion first lady coins would cost $250 each.

Bill co-sponsor Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., reiterated the educational value of the presidential $1 coin program.

"This bill provides all the best elements of a successful coinage program: education, collecting interest, a financial windfall for the Treasury," Maloney said during the hearing. "Politicians and educators are always searching for a new way to boost interest in American history."

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