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The Susan B. Anthony Buck Stops Here, Says Thomas B. Shick

December 8, 1993

WASHINGTON (AP) _ He jingles when he walks and gets dirty looks at the cash register, but Thomas B. Shick is a man of principle. What he believes in is the Susan B. Anthony dollar, made of metal.

Shick spends the coin dollar wherever his fellow countrymen spend a paper buck. It’s one man’s campaign to gain respect for a piece of legal tender that laid an egg.

Introduced with much fanfare in 1979, the Susan B. Anthony dollar honored the 19th century crusader for giving women the vote. The coin was supposed to replace the dollar bill one day. But it never won acceptance as a coin of the realm.

The realm wouldn’t have it. The government wound up with 500 million of them in warehouses.

The problem was that the Susan B. Anthony (the government tried to get people to call them ″Susies,″ but that didn’t work either) looked too much like a quarter. People who mistakenly spent a dollar on something that cost 25 cents would swear off the Susan B. Anthony.

That’s when Shick, 58, a mechanic who lives in nearby Woodbridge, Va., swore on it. He found one branch bank - and only one, he said - that would sell him Susan B. Anthonys.

″Ninety percent of my cash transactions are done with Susan B. Anthony coins,″ Shick reported in a letter to the editor in The Washington Post this week.

He’s not out to prove anything, he elaborated in a subsequent interview.

″I do it just to get attention, I guess,″ he said. ″Just to do something different. I do it mainly to watch the reaction of people when I pay with them. I’ve had a couple refuse it. Some people think they’re Canadian money.″

Sometimes, he said, he’s had to persuade a clerk to summon the manager before his payment is accepted.

And what does his wife think of this?

″She thinks I’m nuts.″

As for the criticism that the Susan B. Anthony seems too much like a quarter, ″that’s valid,″ Shick said. ″But it’s like anything else, if you spend one like a quarter once, you don’t do it again.″

From time to time, members of Congress, spurred by the vending machine industry, propose reinstating a dollar coin. In 1987, they offered legislation on grounds it would save $500 million a year since paper money wears out faster than coins.

But the U.S. Mint said the saving would only be achieved if the dollar bill were eliminated and people had no choice but to use the coin. Only 15 percent of those asked in a poll favored that.

″The American public,″ said Donna Pope, then the director of the mint, ″simply does not want the dollar coin.″

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