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Katrina Sistrunk slides a dollar bill into a soda machine in Priceville on Wednesday. Now she'll be able to use the new presidential dollars, the first of which is seen below.
Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.
Katrina Sistrunk slides a dollar bill into a soda machine in Priceville on Wednesday. Now she'll be able to use the new presidential dollars, the first of which is seen below.

A dollar for your thoughts . . .
U.S. Mint launching
presidential $1 coin

By Ronnie Thomas 340-2438

George Washington lookalikes Thursday will greet commuters at Grand Central Terminal in New York.

What appears to be a good lead-in to Presidents Day on Monday actually is for the introduction of the first presidential $1 coin, which honors Washington.

After the "father of our country" has his coin day, John Adams follows May 18, Thomas Jefferson on Aug. 17 and James Madison on Nov. 16.

From the reaction Wednesday of many Decatur residents like Wendy Wallace, the U.S. Mint will need a lot more publicity to get the Washington coin winging nationwide.

Wallace, 28, had not heard about the coin. But she said she had heard talk that eventually the government will replace the dollar bill with a coin.

"They spend the same way," she said. "I don't care if they do or don't. I probably like having the dollar bill, but whatever."

Another Decatur woman, Cissy Werdebaugh, 58, had heard about the coin but had not given it much thought.

"I guess it will be OK, but I don't want to get it mixed up with something else, with my other change," she said. "I don't collect the quarters and I won't collect the dollars."

But her granddaughter, Aaliah Werdebaugh, 9, does collect quarters from the Mint's 50 State Quarters Program.

"She says that's my lucky quarter, and she tells me to quit spending them," Werdebaugh said.

The Mint modeled the presidential coin dollars on the state quarters, which feature a succession of designs, each highlighting one state. But the presidential coins are gold-colored like the Sacagawea coin dollar the Mint first issued in 2000.

And because the size, weight and composition of the presidential coin will be identical to that of the Sacagawea, operators of vending machines do not foresee any problems.

"We initially had to set up the machines to take the Sacagawea," said Chip Stephenson, branch manager of Five Star Food Service in Huntsville. "We have $10 and $20 bill changers, and the customer gets back the gold (Sacagawea) coins."

Stephenson said that when the Mint first struck the Susan B. Anthony dollar coin in 1979 vending machines would not accept them.

"But when the Sacagawea came out, we got ready and put upgrades in our machines to accept them," he said. "We felt they would be in people's pockets and be a big demand because there was so much publicity about them."

Stephenson said vendors also had to change their machines to accept the new $5 bill.

"It was the same with the $10 bill and the $20 bill," he said. "The cost for the changeover is about $500 per machine. We're in seven states, and we're talking about thousands of machines."

Terri Collins, assistant vice president of marketing and sales at First American Bank, said the bank ordered a few boxes of the new coins "just like we do any of our money. If customers want it, we will have it for them."

Collins expects to have the coins Thursday, but only at the main Decatur office.

Like many others, Collins sees the presidential coin primarily as a draw for collectors.

"With the quarters, vendors contacted our marketing department to see if we wanted to display holders for collecting them, but we've never gotten into that," she said. "(Collectors) will determine their own format, whether it's leather-bound, plastic or cardboard containers."

Roseann Cole, a teller at The Citizens Bank of Moulton, said her bank will have coins available Tuesday.

The Mint will honor each president with a single coin, regardless of the number of consecutive terms he served. But Grover Cleveland, the only president to serve non-consecutive terms, will be honored on two coins.

Despite a promotional blitz, the Sacagawea coin failed to gain in popularity with the public, and mintages declined sharply, just as mintages of the Susan B. Anthony dollar had done 21 years earlier.

The Presidential Coin Act of 2005 requires the Mint to strike the coins commemorating the former presidents in the order in which they served. The act also specifies that the series will end when the Mint has honored every eligible president. Every former president who served after Ford is still alive with the exception of Reagan. Reagan, who died in 2004, will have a coin but the timing of the release is uncertain.

If, in 2016, Carter has been dead for at least two years, then Reagan's coin will be the 40th in the series. Otherwise, assuming Carter survives to the age of 90 or beyond, Reagan's coin will be the 39th, immediately following Ford's.

In either case, the Mint will release Reagan's coin sometime in 2016, as either the third or fourth in that year.

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