Americans, who gave a lukewarm welcome to the Susan B. Anthony coin when it came out, are being force-fed 250,000 of the quarter-sized dollars daily by the nation's largest chain store, the U.S. Postal Service.
If you walk into any of the 35,000 post offices -- as of last Friday -- and use a big bill to pay for stamps, odds are your change will come back in the $1 coins honoring the famous suffragist. The idea of stocking the post offices was the Treasury Department's. It has cranked out about 800 million of the coins -- more than three for every man, woman and child in the nation -- and demand for them has been, to be charitable, not so great.
"They are moving like green weenies," said one Treasury aide when asked to comment on the popularity of the coins. Another said the coins got such "bad press" that "people who have never seen nor used them are making judgements based on the media," which has tended to poke fun at the dollars and highlight gripes from persons who don't like them.
To get more of the coins in circulation, Treasury asked the Postal Service to help out. The Postal Service has about 55,000 windows that dispense stamps and services, and, ideally, it should be able to make enough change daily to put 250,000 of the coins into the hands of persons who would -- if they take them -- presumably pass them on.
An employe of the U.S. Mint, which manufacturers the coins, said some banks have been reluctant to give them to customers -- an put them into circulation -- fearing a backlash. Others, the aide said, will only dole them out in $25 rolls -- more than most people want.
Postal officials agreed to act as a middleman in the transfer of the coins from Federal Reserve Banks and commercial banks to customers. But Postal Service brass, who have enough image problems of their own, have given orders telling clerks not to push the coins on customers. However, some post offices are getting virtually all of their "bills" in rolls of Anthony coins, so some patrons will have to accept them -- or get their stamps from machines.
Spot checks with clerks in area post offices indicated that many customers are surprised, and many negative, when asked if they would take their change in the form of Susan B. Anthony rather than George Washington.
Douglas A. Smith, a window clerk at the Wheaton station, said few of his customers jump for joy when asked if they would like coins instead of bills. "Maybe one or two have requested them [the coins]," Smith said. "Other people, when asked if they would mind the coins, tend to say no. The majority said they did not want them."
But Treasury brass say that its too early to tell how the public is responding to the Anthony coin. They expect -- and hope -- that people will grow accustomed to her face -- in time.