Rep. Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo.) told a Senate committee yesterday that it would shortchange American women to stamp Miss Liberty's image on a proposed dollar coin instead of that of suffragette Susan B. Anthony.
"We have real birds and real buffalo on our coins; surely it's time we had a real woman," Schroeder said.
The Treasury Department had proposed that a new dollar imprinted with a Liberty head replace the heavy Eisenhower dollar. But women's groups - from the National Organization for Women to the Daughters of the American Revolution - have backed a bill by Sen. William Proxmire (D-Wis.) to stamp Anthony's image on the coin.
The department noted that Congress has the power to decide the issue.
"If the Congress desires to select a different design for the coin, be it Susan B. Anthony or any other person, that, of course, is its prerogative," said Stella Hackel, director of the U.S. Mint, in testimony before the Senate Banking Committee.
The new coin would be a shade larger than a quarter - size officials think would make it popular and less cumbersome than the Eisenhower dollar.
The department proposed that new dollar coins be issued because coins are more durable than bills, resulting in lower production costs over the long term. Dollar bill last about 18 months; coins about 20 years.
Hackel said the government would save $17.5 million annually if the proposed new coin gained widespread acceptance.
Vending machine owners said a dollar coin would enable them to sell more products, such as records and cosmetics. Richard Schreiber, president of the National Automatic Merchandising Association, said a dollar coin would also eliminate the need for expensive automatic change makers.
He denied that prices of items in vending machines would rise if a dollar coin were in wide use.
But bankers and a representative of a retail association testified they would rather not have a new dollar - regardless of whose image it carried - unless a study showed that Americans would use it frejuently.
Vincent Burke of the American Bankers Association said a dollar coin would cost each bank thousands of dollars annually to rent new teller trays and coin machines. Currently, banks and retailers do not use trays for dollar coins because the Eisenhower dollar is seldom used.
"We must voice our concern about any effort to reduce costs in the public sector and shift them to the private sector," Burke said.
Grocers would have to buy new cash registers or modify existing ones, said Frank Register, executive director of the National Association of Retail Grocers. He also said there would be confusion at the checkout counter because customers would quibble over whether they wanted their change in bills or dollar coins.