Starting in January 1999, the new quarters series released by the U.S. Mint will honor each of the 50 states of the Union.
Meanwhile, Native Americans came to the Denver mint to evaluate the six finalist designs for a new dollar honoring Sacagawea, the teenage Shoshone guide who accompanied Lewis and Clark on their Western exploration two centuries ago.
"In the early 1800s, that's when these things occurred, when there was exploration of the West," says Vernon Haragara of the Otoe-Missouria tribe. "I think she was a part of that, and so I think it's a good idea to honor her."
Helene Oldman of the Shoshone Tribe, agrees.
"It doesn't matter what tribe or, you know, what Indians or whether it's a female or a man -- it makes a person feel good," Oldman says.
Opinions were divided, but the design showing Sacagawea pointing West with her baby son on her back seemed to have the most support.
That's fine with U.S. Mint Director Philip Diehl -- anything to avoid another design fiasco like the Susan B. Anthony dollar.
"We have done the most extensive outreach for a government currency or coinage decision in the history of the nation, maybe ever," Diehl says.
Public comment on the design is being accepted until next week. The final decision on the look should come in January. By the start of the new millennium, a new gold dollar coin will join the 50 State quarters on the Denver Mint's production line.
Reported By Mike Fireberg