U.S. Mint tries to get consumers to use dollar coins

ByABC News
October 20, 2008, 6:28 AM

WASHINGTON -- The government is trying to convince consumers that dollar coins are greener than the dollar bill.

The U.S. Mint is spending about $12 million on a pilot project to promote the presidential dollar coin by appealing to Americans' duty to protect the environment while saving the government money. The campaign, which may be expanded nationwide, stresses that coins last longer than dollar bills, are recyclable and could save tax money if more people used them.

"You'll want to get out and do your part, too," says one of the TV ads, which features an animated Statue of Liberty buying a hot dog on the streets of New York City with two dollar coins.

In addition to TV, the four-month program includes radio, Web and newspaper advertising, and partnerships with banks and retailers that are giving out the coins as change. Ads featuring the gold-colored coins are even plastered on city buses and trains.

It is starting in four cities Austin; Charlotte; Grand Rapids, Mich.; and Portland, Ore. and may be expanded if successful. The Mint will be closely tracking bank orders for the coins in the four cities through November to gauge the program's success.

"The ultimate measure right now is how many more dollar coins get ordered and get put into circulation," Mint Director Ed Moy says.

Dawn Walker, training general manager at Bruegger's Bagels in Charlotte, says people are asking for the coins after she put up signs advertising that they carry the dollars featuring U.S. presidents. The favorable response has been a surprise, she says, noting people rejected the coin featuring Sacagawea, which preceded the presidential series.

"It's a great idea," she says of the Mint program. She says being involved is good public relations for the bakery.

The Mint's campaign is the latest attempt by the government to get consumers to spend, not just collect, dollar coins. But it's unclear if after decades of largely rejecting the money, consumers will respond. In the past, consumers and retailers have complained dollar coins were too heavy and more difficult to carry compared with bills and too close in size to quarters, leading to confusion. Many cash registers don't have a slot to hold the coins.