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$1 coin gains momentum

While Russia and the Ukraine struggle to straighten out their currencies, the U.S. Congress is again wrestling with the problem of the $1 coin. A proposal to stop printing dollar bills has been on the agenda several years.

Those arguing for the replacement cite its ease of use in toll and vending machines and note the high cost of printing paper money, which lasts only about 18 months. A coin is expected to circulate for about 20 years.

Those who oppose the introduction simply offer the example of the Susan B. Anthony dollar. Minted for only three years, from 1979 to 1981, that coin was discontinued because of its unpopularity.

Some thought it too small; previous silver dollars had been 50 percent larger. Others thought making the Anthony dollar compatible with vending and toll machines made it too similar in size to the quarter for people to distinguish easily.

To promote public interest in a gold-colored $1 coin, the Olin Brass Corp. of East Alton, Ill., has struck a pattern piece of one possible design of a new clad coin and offered samples of it to the House Coinage subcommittee for testing.

Olin Brass now supplies the United States Mint with the copper-nickel alloy used in quarters, dimes and half-dollars.

Two examples of the trial coins were struck, one made of an alloy of a copper, nickel and zinc alloy, the other of aluminum and bronze. Both have a golden color and feel different from a quarter when blindly groped for.

Olin's design features a Minuteman on the obverse and an eagle on the reverse. There is no denomination anywhere on the coins, so they cannot be confused with legal coins.

Of the almost 1,000 of the trial pieces minted, only about 200 have been handed out. Most of those were distributed for testing in vending machines and as souvenirs to members of the Coin Coalition, a group that advocates the adoption of a $1 coin.

Olin Brass says it isn't sure what to do with the rest and may simply melt them down.