U.S. Treasury officials dispatched Susan B. Anthony, an early crusader for women's rights, on another difficult mission yesterday: to woo Americans away from George Washington and save taxpayers an estimated $50 million a year.
But those who tried to spend the new economy-model dollar - a copper and nickel coin bearing Anthony's determined profile - met reaction ranging from confused acceptance to outright rage.
"What dollar! You don't give me no dollar!" said Hong Chin, manager of Jin Carry-Cut on 12th St. NW. "It's not American money ... I never seen it before."
"I ain't giving you change for this thing here," parking attendant Frank Goodman said. "I got to see them on the street first . . . I don't trust it".
But the Anthony was heralded by women's groups as "the first coin to honor a real woman" - not a man or a myth. She also wears better.
While a George Washington wears thin and limp in about 18 months, an Anthonny, which is slightly larger than a quarter and weighs less than two, will last 15 years or more.
In ceremonies yesterday at the Women's National Bank here, Treasury Undersecretary Bette Anderson said that if just 20 percent of the paper dollars in circulation can be replaced by the Anthony, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing will not have to spend $120 million expanding its facilities for producing and disposing of paper bills.
And, if the public accepts the Anthony to such an extent that it virtually replace the Washington bill, Federal Reserve System officals estimate that taxpayers would save an additional $50 million annually.
But money habits die hard.
"I reject it on the grounds that it is not paper and it's got an old woman on it," said Robin Jones, a Woodward & Lothdrop cashier.
"Too many people are going to think this is a quarter," said LaRhue Von Sumpter, a sales person standing nearby. "It's a nice change, though. It spends. Some won't accept it, but it spends."
The Eisenhower silver dollar, too big heavy, never caught on expect around Las Vegas gaming tables. And the $2 bill, issued in 1976 with brief Bicentennial fanfare and Thomas Jefferson's picture, still is used at about the same rate as the $100 bill.
But this time, to counter the inevitable public grumbling and confusion, Treasury officials have prepared a massive ballyhoo, according to George Valaika, a special projects officer for the department. "We are working with women's groups, because of the power of having (Anthony) on the coin," and with the 37 Federal Reserve Banks, national banking organizations, radio, TV and newspapers, he said.
If the Anthony catches on, the first vending machines designed to use it will start appearing within weeks, according to Walter Reed, of the National Automatic Merchandising Association, which lobbied for the change. Jukeboxes, pinball machines and some dollar bill-changing machines also will be altered for all coin, he said.
"The ability to make a given purchase with just one coin, instead of three or four, is critical," he said.
Delmar Ison, Metro secretary-treasurer, said that Metro buses will take the Anthony but the automatic fare collecting system will not, at least not in the foreseeable future.
Because of the unusually high cost of converting equipment, he said, "We decided we should not pioneer this at public expense until we find out whether (the new dollar) will be accepted by the public."
Yesterday the public wasn't too sure.
"You have to get use to it, just like anything else," said Joy Jenkins Jennifer, a cashier at Union Beauty and Barber supply on 12th St. NW.
But at a nearby cafeteria, a man paying a $1.19 bill with an Anthony and a quarter found himself waiting in vain for change
"That's a dollar and quarter," the man said. "You owe me six cents."
"What you say? That's two quarters," the cashier said.
"The bigger one's a dollar," he said.
She looked at it. "What country?" she asked.
"The United States. Like it says." She looked around as though seeking help. "I don't know nothing about this," she said. "I can't take this."
"You have to take it. It's American money."
"That's right," said the next in line. "It's a silver dollar. They just put them in circulation today."
"Nobody said nothing to me. I can't take them." "That's real money," the man behind explained. "You have to take them. It's a new kind of dollar."
Outnumbered, she gave in. But she clearly didn't like it. CAPTION: Picture 1, The Susan B. Anthony dollar, is slightly larger than the quarter; Picture 2, the backs of the coins.