Washington Can George Washington and Thomas Jefferson succeed where Susan B. Anthony and Sacajawea failed? The U.S. Mint is hoping America's presidents will win acceptance, finally, for the maligned dollar coin.
The public will get the chance to decide starting in February when the first of the new coins, bearing the image of the first president, is introduced.
Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison are scheduled to grace the coin in 2007, with a different president appearing every three months.
The series will honor four presidents per year, in the order they served in office. Each president will appear on only one coin, except for Grover Cleveland, who will be on two because he was the only president to serve nonconsecutive terms. To be depicted on a coin, a president must have been dead for at least two years.
The idea of rotating designs borrows from the highly successful 50-state quarter program. Since its launch in 1999, this program has featured five state designs each year in the order the state joined the union.
The quarter program has been widely successful, introducing millions of people to coin collecting for the first time. The Mint hopes the presidential program will enjoy similar success, in part because of the bold designs on the new coins.
The coins will be the same size as the Sacagawea dollar - a little larger than a quarter - and the same golden color as the Sacagawea. The image of the president will be on one side and the Statue of Liberty on the other.
The images will be slightly larger than those on a quarter because space was freed up by moving some of the traditional wording such as "In God We Trust" to the edge of the coin. Edge lettering has not been tried on an American coin since 1933.
Will all this be enough to make the presidential dollars a success where the Susan B. Anthony, introduced in 1979, and the Sacagawea, introduced in 2000, have been flops, at least in terms of gaining acceptance as circulating coins?
Edmund C. Moy, the director of the Mint, is optimistic, saying a number of things have changed since the Sacagawea launch six years ago. Rising prices mean it takes more quarters to feed the parking meter and vending machines. People might now be more willing to carry the dollar coin to replace four quarters.