A More Durable Dollar

013000 "Golden Coins" CBS

If at first you don't succeed, the saying goes. Now, the U.S. Mint is trying again to sell the public on a dollar coin. CBS News Correspondent Lee Cowan tells why it could work the second time around.

It's an old idea, with a new face.

As of this weekend, the dollar coin is officially in circulation at Wal-Mart stores all around the country. It's the latest effort by the Mint to fill our pockets with a currency more durable than paper.

"They really didn't believe it was real," says Wal-Mart's Russ Watkins. "Most people hadn't heard of it as first, and they couldn't understand what they were!"

When the first modern dollar coin, the Susan B. Anthony, appeared in 1979, it didn't catch on. In fact, people hated it.

But with more than 200 million orders already for the new coin, the Mint promises the reception will be different.

"We learned all the appropriate lessons of the Susan B. Anthony," says Philip Diehl, the Mint's director. "This coin will not be confused with the quarter."

On the face of the new coin is Sacajawea, Lewis & Clark's Native American guide on their journey west.

It's also gold in color and has smooth wide edges similar to a nickel, making it as easy to find in your pocket as it is to spot in your purse.

But why try something that failed so miserably before?

The Mint says it's because inflation has caught up with the vending machines. Snacks that once cost a quarter now cost four or more.

"Those dollar bill acceptors are a real hassle!" says Diehl. "All of us have had that experience of trying to get a crumpled or worn dollar bill accepted by one of those bill acceptors. The dollar coin will make those transactions much faster."

That still leaves parking meters, pay phones and toll booths to catch up. And Americans will have to catch up with the notion of reaching for a coin instead of their much loved greenback.

  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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