Susan B. Anthony Was Ahead of Her Time; Can That Now Be Said of Her Dollar?
Remember those wonderful folks who gave us the two-dollar bill? For an encore they came up with the Susan B. Anthony dollar, and its descent into obscurity could be just as swift. Ever since the coin with raised inner borders went into circulation last July, complaints have been pouring in from consumers. The Anthony dollar, they say, looks and feels too much like a quarter. "This thing is the Edsel of the coin business," fumes California Rep. Jerry Lewis, 44, who has introduced a bill to stop its minting.
Defending the much-maligned coin is the director of the U.S. Mint, Stella Hackel, 52. "The confusion is more perceived than real," she insists. "The Anthony dollar bears the same relationship to the quarter that the quarter does to the five-cent piece." Besides, she points out, it is possible to distinguish between the two coins by touch, while in the dark there's no way to tell the difference between a one-and a 10-dollar bill.
Realizing that Anthony's coining was once a minor feminist cause, Republican Lewis is careful not to trample on the spirit of suffrage. "I would guess that Susan B. Anthony wouldn't be very happy," he says sympathetically. "The coin is such a shameful thing, and the size is absolutely degrading." But is there concealed sexism in the congressman's complaint that the new currency is inconvenient to carry? "Are you going to want 10 dollars in coins jangling around in your pocket?" he asks with a manly grin. "I'm not really ready to carry a purse."
Hackel, however, says that with the demand for dollars increasing at around 10 percent a year—about as fast as inflation robs them of value—the Anthony dollar cuts government spending. It costs only a penny more to produce (30) than the paper dollar, but will last at least 14 years longer. "If the American people choose to use this coin," she declares, "the government can save up to $50 million a year." The Mint's ultimate persuasion is simply to stop pressing greenbacks.
No way, says Lewis. He has written to all 434 of his House colleagues seeking support for his legislation—which is not to suggest that he regards the Anthony coin as valueless. "I'm thinking of buying some in proof-set form," he smiles, "because I think they will be very valuable items once this coin disappears from the market."
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