Local collectors rush to grab new $1 coins

Published 6:00 am Thursday, March 1, 2007

It’s a bold new look, and feel, for a currency mainstay.

The new $1 coins arrived here Thursday, and bankers are urgingpeople to check their change carefully when making purchases.

Only slightly larger and thicker than quarters, the gold-hued $1coins can still be easily confused with the coin of lesserdenomination, bankers said.

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Both feature a profile of the nation’s first president, GeorgeWashington, on its front side. However, the $1 coin has a frontalview the president while the quarter reveals a side view.

The back of the $1 coin displays the Statue of Liberty.

“It does have a big ‘$1’ on the back that you can’t miss,” saidShannon Aker, senior vice president of Bank of Brookhaven. “But, Ithink this first little wave will be a bit confusing. It’s new andit’s different.”

Many might miss the currency slogans of “In God We Trust” and “EPluribus Unum.” The wording, along with the date of release, isetched into the side of the coin.

The coins debuted nationally Feb. 15, but “we’re usually aboutone week behind the federal release,” Aker said.

Demand for the new quarters when they arrived Thursday was high,said Aker, citing more than 50 exchanges in the first four hoursafter their arrival.

“There was one guy here waiting when the truck came in,” Akersaid. “We’ve had people calling wanting to know when they would behere for several weeks.”

Bank of Brookhaven received 2,000 $1 coins, he said, and theyare not expected to remain in the bank vaults long.

Chris Thurman, president of Trustmark Bank, said they arereceiving regular shipments of the coin.

“We are seeing a lot of demand for them,” he said. “What we’vegot is going fast. We order money every day, so we’ll get them inon a regular basis.”

Collectors have far outnumbered the curious since the coins’arrival Thursday, the bankers said.

It is very similar to the rush experienced by banks during therelease of state quarters, Aker said. The state quarters stillprompt a rush on the banks with each new release.

Like the state quarters, the $1 presidential coins will havemultiple releases. The U.S. Mint will release the $1 coins at arate of four a year. The coins will be released in presidentialsuccession each quarter until 2016.

“They’re great conversation pieces,” Aker said. “A lot of peopleget them for their grandkids.”

How the coin will fare as more than a collection piece, however,is still under debate.

“There’s not a lot in circulation yet, but there is some,”Thurman said. “The demand so far has mostly been fromcollectors.”

Many coin experts have said they are not convinced thepresidential coins will see wide use. Instead, they say, the coinswill follow the path of the Susan B. Anthony and Sacagawea coins,which are rarely seen today outside of coin collections.

“Time will be the thing that really tells the tale,” Thurmansaid. “I think bills will still be the prevalent one in the shortterm, but it’s too early to tell how well the coins will do. It’sstill a mental thing for people to grasp a dollar bill instead of acoin.”

It will be difficult to determine the coins’ long-term successuntil after the initial surge of collectors has ebbed, he said.

His personal opinion, Thurman said, was that the bills wouldcontinue to dominate the market with the coins also incirculation.