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New gold coin makes nice change

February 03, 2000|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

The U.S. Mint is marketing the new Sacagawea dollar coin by placing it in Wal-Mart and Sam's Club cash registers, and the effort has been so successful that the Hagerstown stores have exhausted their initial supply.

The Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores on Wesel Boulevard were out of the golden dollar coins on Thursday but were expecting another shipment soon, according to a Wal-Mart assistant manager who didn't want to be identified.

Customers were given the coin for change instead of paper bills. People also could exchange up to $10 in bills for the coins, an option many took advantage of, the assistant manager said.

"The people love it. It's gone over big," she said.

Sacagawea was selected for the coin for her role in the historic Lewis and Clark expedition, said Jennifer Arnold a spokeswoman for the U.S. Mint. Between 1804 and 1806, Sacagawea guided the adventurers from the Northern Great Plains to the Pacific Ocean and back.

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In marketing the coin, the Mint was mindful of the public's disinterest in the Susan B. Anthony dollar. Often mistaken for a quarter, that dollar coin produced between 1979 and 1981 was a flop.

While the same size as the Susan B. Anthony dollar - 26 mm in diameter - the Sacagawea coin stands out because of its smooth edging, wide border, golden color and unique image, Arnold said.

"We've received nothing but positive responses," said Arnold.

The coin also has been placed in select boxes of Cheerios for a special promotion. Banks will be receiving the coins in upcoming weeks.

Hagerstown Trust Co. expects to have the coin soon, according to Dave Barnhart, Hagerstown Trust's vice president of marketing.

Barnhart said differences between the Sacagawea coin and the Susan B. Anthony dollar are clear and he expects public demand to be great.

"Customers want a new and different coin to use in day-to-day life," he said.

The selection of Sacagawea for the $1 coin was a joint effort. A committee consisting of Native Americans, coin enthusiasts, artists, educators, historians, members of Congress, U.S. Mint and Treasury officers and employees and other members of the public reviewed and commented on several designs.

The designs were reviewed by Congress, Native Americans tribal leaders and historians. They were also posted on the Internet.

In response, the U.S. mint received more than 120,000 e-mails and 2,000 letters and faxes.

A Shoshone Indian, Sacagawea was 15 years old and pregnant when she made the historic trip with Lewis and Clark. Her husband Toussaint Charbonneau accompanied the group, and their son, Jean Baptiste, was born during the trip. Sacagawea is shown carrying Jean Baptiste on her back on one side of the golden dollar coin.

The Indian guide's selection for the coin has received mixed reviews from coin collectors, said Bill Stratemeyer, past president of the Maryland State Numismatics Association.

Stratemeyer was a member of the committee that helped select the coin's image, he said.

"I like the coin. I voted for it," he said. Stratemeyer said the coin's design was aesthetically pleasing and mindful of Sacagawea's place in history.

Boonsboro numismatist Frank Pugliese said he believes the coin should have carried a different image.

Sacagawea was a "minor historical figure," he said.

In addition, he said, the golden dollar coin is too light in color to stand out and not heavy or thick enough.

He predicted the coin will follow the path of the Susan B. Anthony dollar.

"It's an abomination," he said.

Sacagawea's image was designed by Glenna Goodacre, a New Mexico artist who also designed the Vietnam Women's Memorial. The soaring eagle on the opposite of the coin was the work of Tom Rodgers, who previously designed the obverse of the Robert F. Kennedy Commemorative Silver Dollar.

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