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The BBC's Nick Bryant
The US Mint is trying to get the public to use the dollar coin
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Friday, 23 June, 2000, 17:36 GMT 18:36 UK
US icon backs dollar coin
The Dollar coin
The US Mint is having trouble selling the coin
By the BBC's Nick Bryant in Washington

The US government is being accused of a conspiracy to abolish the dollar bill.

The Save the Greenback Campaign group claims the introduction of a new dollar coin is just the first stage in a campaign to get rid of the old note altogether.

Previous attempts to introduce a dollar coin have failed, but this time the government is banking on a new salesman.

America's first president, as he has never been seen before, has been brought back to computer-generated life to press the dollar coin on a sceptical US public.

The computer-generated George Washington
The mint hopes George Washington sells the coin

It has been a hard sell, even for George Washington, whose image appears on the dollar bill. This new advertising campaign alone cost $40m - and it may not be working.

Such is the love of the traditional US greenback that Americans often queue for hours outside the building in Washington where it is printed.

The US public have never caught on to the coin - and a previous attempt in the late '70s to introduce one failed. There is stubborn resistance to change.

Matter of efficiency

"It's something you're used to. The dollar bill is so basic to America, to suddenly find it that it wasn't there would be traumatic," said one visitor to the US Mint in Washington.

Another said: "It's easier to handle, and I don't get it confused with my quarters and dimes."

Nick Bryant holds up a sheet of dollar bills
The US could save millions by making the coin

Critics argue, though, that the dollar bill is not an efficient form of currency - and the problem, inevitably, involves money.

The dollar coin will last on average 30 years, whereas the dollar note will last a mere 18 months.

Switching to the dollar coin would save the US government millions.

Businesses want a coin, too. Public transit companies would save over $100m a year if they did not have to smooth and stack their passengers' dollar notes.

Government conspiracy?

There would be obvious benefits for the vending industry, as well.

But the coin is part of a sinister government conspiracy, say backers of the bill.

Dollar coins pour from a minting machine
The mint has made 700m of the the coins

"It's plain to me that the supporters of the dollar coin have in mind eliminating the dollar bill. Why? Because the dollar coin won't succeed unless the dollar bill is eliminated," says one coin critic.

It is true that the US Mint has unleashed a massive offensive.

They have come up with an attractive design and are flooding the market with 700m coins. It says, though, that the greenback is safe.

But the battle could be just warming up. Legislation is already been put before congress to phase out the dollar bill.

And George Washington may be talking himself out of a job.

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