New George Washington $1 Coin Makes Debut

The newest $1 coin, bearing the likeness of George Washington, is going into circulation around the country just in time for next week's celebration of the first president's birthday.

U.S. Mint officials hope they have overcome problems that doomed its two predecessors, but coin experts are still skeptical.

Mint Director Edmund C. Moy was to participate in a coin exchange Thursday at New York's busy Grand Central Terminal to promote the new dollar, which the Mint believes can be a big success despite the naysayers.

The Mint is making sure the coins, which are golden in color and slightly larger and thicker than a quarter, will be widely available so people will not be disappointed when they show up at banks looking for the coins.

So far the Federal Reserve, the Mint's distribution agent, has placed orders for 300 million of the Washington coins. Many have already been delivered to commercial banks under orders not to begin selling them to customers until Thursday.

"For the vast majority of Americans, they will be able to get the new dollar coin on the day that we issue it," Moy said in an interview with The Associated Press.

The design on the coin will change every three months, featuring a new president in the order in which they served. In that way, the Mint hopes to attract the more than 125 million collectors who are participating in the phenomenally successful 50-state quarter program.

Coin experts, however, questioned whether the rotating designs will be enough to allow the new presidential $1 coin to succeed where the Susan B. Anthony dollar, introduced in 1979, and the Sacagawea dollar, introduced in 2000, failed.

"I don't know of any country that has successfully introduced the equivalent of a dollar coin without getting rid of the corresponding paper unit," said Douglas Mudd, author of a new book on the history of money, "All the Money in the World."

Moy said Congress made the decision to keep the dollar bill as part of its consideration and passage of the new dollar coin legislation in 2005.

After Washington, the presidents honored this year will be John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. The program is scheduled to run into 2016. A president must have been dead at least two years to appear on a coin.