Thomas who? New dollar coin might help
By MARTIN CRUTSINGER, AP Economics Writer
Wed Aug 15, 11:22 AM ET
- Most folks can correctly name George Washington as the nation's
first president. After that, things get tricky.
U.S. Mint is hoping its new dollar coin series will
help refresh some hazy memories of Adams, Jefferson
and all the rest.
That could be a tall order, however, given the results
of a poll the Mint commissioned to find out just how
much knowledge Americans have about their presidents.
According to the telephone poll, conducted by the Gallup
Organization last month, nearly all those questioned
knew that Washington was the first president. However,
only 30 percent could name Thomas Jefferson as the nation's
third president, and memories of the other presidents
and where they fit in was even more limited.
Only 7 percent could name the first four presidents
— Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Madison —
in the correct order. While 94 percent knew that Washington
was first, only 8 percent knew that James Madison was
And when it came to the next four presidents —
James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson and
Martin Van Buren — only 16 percent of those surveyed
could name any president in that group and only 2 percent
could name them all.
In this image provided by the U.S. Mint,
the new Jefferson dollar, which will be released in
a ceremony at the Jefferson Memorial on Wednesday, Aug.
15, 2007, in Washington, is seen. The coin will go into
nationwide circulation on Aug. 16, 2007. (AP Photo/U.S.
Mint Director Edmund Moy believes the new
dollar coin series will be an antidote for that. And he can
cite a good precedent. The Mint's 50-state quarter program,
the most popular coin series in history, has gotten 150 million
Americans involved in collecting the quarters that are honoring
the states in the order they were admitted to the Union.
"My nieces and nephews know a lot more about geography
than I did at their age and the state quarters are playing
an instrumental role in that," Moy said in an interview
with The Associated Press.
Moy released the survey results at the Jefferson Memorial
on Wednesday at an event staged to publicize the release of
the new $1 Jefferson coin. That coin will go into circulation
nationwide on Thursday, the day that people will be able to
visit their banks to purchase it. It will also go on sale
on the Mint's Web site at noon EDT.
The Jefferson dollar follows the Washington coin, which was
introduced in February, and the John Adams coin, introduced
in May. The coin honoring James Madison will go into circulation
in November, and four more of the nation's presidents will
be honored every year in the order they served in the White
By having a rotating design on the new dollar coins, the Mint
is hoping to keep interest high and avoid the famous flops
of two previous dollar coins — the Susan B. Anthony,
introduced in 1979, and the Sacagawea, introduced in 2000.
The presidential coins are the same size as the Sacagawea,
slightly larger than a quarter, and also golden in color.
Skeptics, however, believe they will suffer the same fate
as the Sacagawea unless the government decides to get rid
of the $1 bill, something that Congress has strongly opposed.
Moy insisted in the interview that the Mint has learned from
the failures of the past dollar coins and that the new presidential
series has a good chance for success, in part by finding niche
markets such as vending machines, where a dollar coin will
be more convenient than getting a pocketful of quarters in
"Vending machine companies are spending up to $1 billion
a year in maintenance costs due to paper jams," he said.
"More use of dollar coins will mean less in maintenance
Moy said the program is off to a good start with 700 million
presidential coins already ordered by the Federal Reserve
to put into circulation in the first eight months, half the
time it took the Sacagawea to reach that milestone.
There have been glitches, especially with customers having
difficulty finding the coins at their local banks. Moy said
that problem is occurring because of misunderstandings on
the part of banks about how they can go about reordering coins
if they run out.
He has appointed a Mint task force to come up with solutions
to the distribution problems, and he predicts that between
80 percent and 100 percent of all banks will have the new
Jefferson coin this week.
To bolster the educational part of the coin program, the Mint
has developed special lesson plans on its Web site for use
by parents and teachers.
The survey to find out people's knowledge of the presidents
was based on telephone interviews with 1,000 adults conducted
July 18-25. It has a sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage