Al McCombs

Al McCombs

It’s pretty hard these days to get your hand on  a gold dollar. Forty years ago the government gave it a try with the Susie in an effort to spotlight women’s rights. Later came the Sacajawea, to call attention to Native American (and again, women in history). Neither took hold for long.  Banks no longer circulate either regularly and only some will order them for you. Metrolink tried to help in 1993 by giving them as change in its ticket machines. This Roundup is from a prize winning Rolltop that appeared in 1979 when the Susie B. came out. 

Susan B. Anthony is about to shake the nation even more than she did 60 years ago when the 19th amendment was adopted in 1920.

The U.S. government has memorialized her efforts for women’s rights by placing her head on the new U.S. dollar, an 11-sided copper-core coin hardly bigger than a quarter. On Monday the Federal Reserve System placed 500 million of them in the hands of the nation’s banks for distribution to the public. It may take some time to catch on. Officials are waiting to see whether Susan B. will be more popular than Thomas Jefferson, who has had the ill-fortune of being honored on the $2 bill.

I felt it was my patriotic duty to help this great patriot to gain circulation in Chino. So Tuesday I went to the Bank of America and bought a $25 roll of Anthonys. It wasn’t easy. When I asked for them, the teller started making out an order form.

“Do you have to do that every time to get them?” I asked. It turns out that the coins were in custody of the vault teller. The regular tellers were apparently not stocking them in their drawers.

With the $25 jingling in my pocket I started off to circulate them. First I stopped at the liquor store across the street and bought two cans of soft drinks. Holding back a smirk, I plunked down my quarter-looking dollar.

“Geeze,” said Chuck Marietta, the owner, after taking a second look, “You got one of those. I got one yesterday. They’re going to be fun,” he said, not sounding like it would really be much fun. “Why didn’t they make them a size between quarters and halves?”

This question is sure to plague store owners across the nation. For the customer, there’s no problem. He can always claim the coin was a dollar. But the clerk who’s in a hurry may easily hand out the Anthonys for change thinking they are 25-cent pieces. The only defense against this possibility is to hide them as far back in the cash register as possible and trade them in at the bank promptly.

This isn’t going to stimulate much widespread circulation.  They’re going to be avoided like a plague, or at least like a $2 bill, by the people whom the government depends on to distribute them – the business operators.

I paid for lunch at Denny’s with my Susies, and the clerk didn’t bat an eyelash. But she did count them carefully to make sure I hadn’t slipped a quarter into the pile.

So I tried McDonald’s, where I bought a root beer. “You thought you’d fool me,” laughed the counter girl giving me change for $1 without a wasted motion. But then she gleefully showed the new coin off to the other girls, as if she’d just found a $1 gold piece.

At Sprouse-Reitz a new cashier was just learning the ropes, and my pile of near-quarter size Susies almost threw her. But, considering the fact that everything else about collecting money was new to her, she maintained her poise pretty well. At Safeway, where I stopped to get a pack of gum, the checker at the express register handled it like a pro, as if she had been taking in Susies all year.

There was more reaction at Newton’s gift shop. “Oh, that’s one of those new ones. We’re not going to like them. I can already tell,” said the clerk.

Here I also heard one of the multitude of tales and rumors which can soon be expected about Susie. “I heard at the bank that there was a man at Denny’s who left four of them for a tip, thinking they were quarters,” she said.

The thought of that error on behalf of the waitress no doubt has Susie B laughing up a storm, wherever she is. Men didn’t always treat her nicely when she fought for women’s rights. A lot of women didn’t either.

At Modern Cleaners, the clerk did a double take as I plunked down four for my $3.75 bill. “Oh, that’s those new one dollars. Geeze,” she said. I had gone the full circle. Instead of Susie, people seem to be calling the new dollar a Geeze.

My last stop was at the fireworks stand.

“Are you 16?” the clerk joshed. I’ll get even, I thought. I handed her my Susie. “Now, now, now, now…” she admonished, thinking I had shortchanged her for the 40-cent medium base sparkling fountain. Then: “Oh that’s one of those new ones,” and the other two clerks rushed over to see, with looks of wonder on their faces.

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