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Coins

02/13/07 12:00AM By Vic Henningsen
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(HOST) Next Monday is Presidents' Day and to celebrate the U.S. Mint is issuing a new one-dollar coin with the likeness of George Washington. Commentator Vic Henningsen says that's just the beginning.

(Henningsen) The new George Washington dollar coin begins a series that will last a decade and will feature the likeness of every deceased president. At three month intervals successive coins will be issued in the order of presidential service.

So for the next ten years, coin collectors, history buffs, grandparents seeking to raise civic consciousness and thrifty habits in American youth - all have something to look forward to at gift-giving time.

We have to admire the government's persistence. After all, the public roundly rejected the Susan B. Anthony dollar coin and only cautiously embraced the Sacagawea dollar - both of which will remain in circulation.

Here the feds must feel on safer ground, returning masculine appeal to history and patriotism. Mint officials hope that Americans will embrace presidential dollar coins the way they grabbed state quarters, a number of which have been taken out of circulation by collectors.

Well, we'll see.

We're off to a good start. Of this year's batch, Washington and Jefferson are time-tested coin winners and Adams and Madison are good bets.

We may be in trouble with the rest. With the exception of Lincoln in 2010, there's no box office hit between Andrew Jackson in '08 and Theodore Roosevelt in 2013. The desert years will be 2011 and 2012, when the mint will issue - no doubt with great fanfare - coins commemorating the following: Andrew Johnson, Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Arthur, Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, and McKinley (assuming, of course, they count Grover Cleveland only once).

It's a list, said one historian, of bearded non-entities. Proof-positive, observed Henry Adams, that Darwin was wrong!

So this could be a tough sell - unless of course, the Mint comes up with some marketing schemes that will make people want to collect sets. Here are some early suggestions:

Matched pairs are always popular: the grandfather/grandson collection of the two Harrisons; the father/son groupings of Adamses and Bushes; the Roosevelt cousins; and the same-last-name-but-no-relation duo of Andrew and Lyndon Johnson.

Or the impeachment special: Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were both impeached by the House of Representatives though the Senate acquitted them. Richard Nixon would have been impeached, had he not resigned first. You can create your own set of who should have been.

What about the six bearded chief executives? The eight who died in office? The twelve former Vice-Presidents?

Then there's the category I call "decades we'd like to forget". First priority here would go to the 1850's group from Taylor to Buchanan that ushered in the Civil War. Second might be the 1970's presidents: Ford, Carter, and Nixon - famously remembered by their contemporary, Bob Dole, as "See no evil, hear no evil, and Evil."

Yes folks, the American Presidency: the gift that keeps on giving. Grab the first four soon, because once the James Monroe dollar coin appears, we're in for a long haul.

Kinda makes you think that Canada's loons and beavers aren't such a bad idea.

Vic Henningsen is a teacher and historian.

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