Grand Rapids goes for the gold

October 3, 2008
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Grand Rapids was selected along with three other cities — Charlotte, N.C., Portland, Ore., and Austin, Texas — to run a pilot program endorsing the use of the Presidential $1 coin. The coin is gold in color and larger than a quarter to make it stand out.

“Grand Rapids is one of (the pilot cities) because it is known to be forward in thinking, having very strong family values, so it fit a lot of the factors that we’re looking for,” said Ed Moy, director of the United States Mint.

“We think that if people in Grand Rapids embrace this, it’s the type of city that has the moxie to lead the country in the adoption of this coin.”

The pilot program is in response to a task set by congress for the U.S. Mint to increase circulation of the coin. It comes after a year of studying how the coin is used. The first four in the series of presidential coins were issued in 2007.

“It’s really going to be a three-pronged approach,” said Moy. “The first one is going to be working very closely with retailers. It’s actually sitting down with all the major retailers and small businesses that have a greater proportion of cash intensive transactions.

“It’s also to get consumers engaged. The average public needs to know how dollar coins are more convenient. And we also have to engage the banking community who supplies the businesses with the dollar coins. Once you do that, and you do it all at the same time, our hope is that these will be very positive steps to lead us through robust circulation.”

Companies that deal heavily with change, quick transactions and nightly accounting will experience the biggest benefit from the coins, Moy said.

“In the daily nits and grits of a business where you have to count your money, do your accounting at the end of the day and those types of things, using dollar coins gives them a slight competitive advantage in this administrative/management area,” said Moy.

“When you talk to quick-serve restaurants, theire goal is to move customers through the line faster. Instead of doing a long count or a swipe and waiting for the phone lines to go through, coins will expedite those things. (For) large restaurants like McDonald’s and so on, seconds matter.”

Moy stressed that the coin is not intended to replace the dollar bill, but work with it.

“When you go into Best Buy to buy a flat screen TV, you’re not going to bring in 1,000 dollar coins to buy that TV, but you’re not going to bring in 1,000 dollar bills to buy that TV either — you’re going to use a credit card for it. When you’re buying mints at the local drug store and you’re just making that one simple transaction, or you’re going to the street vendor, coins are going to be easier.”

The dollar coins, with a projected 40-year lifespan, are also 100 percent recyclable.

“Nothing goes to waste. That type of thing is consistent with the brand image that (companies) want to be presenting to their customers, and we fit in a portion of that.”

After introducing the first coins in 2007, the department’s first goal was to raise awareness of them. The department met their goal by creating demand for close to one billion coins and, according to Moy, 400 million have been requested by the Federal Reserve this year.

The difficulties in getting people to use the coin caused the department to put an emphasis on the design element. Each coin is part of a series that depicts a different president, in the order that they served, much like the Fifty State Quarter Program. Four coins are to be issued each year. In 2007, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were honored, with James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren being honored in 2008.

“If this was just purely an economic transaction, you’d just stamp the denomination on it and be done with it. But what congress asked us to do is pattern this off of the very successful Fifty State Quarter Program, which has a rotating series of designs,” said Moy. “What we found is, up to 147 million people are collecting the state quarters.”

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