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Dollar coin arrives at South Whidbey banks

"For the first two weeks of this month, the only place on Whidbey Island to find the new U.S. dollar coin was at Wal-Mart in Oak Harbor.This week Wal-Mart's monopoly on the Sacajawea coin ended when small shipments of the coins arrived at InterWest Bank and Whidbey Island Bank, as well as other local bank branches.The Clinton branch of InterWest received 200 of the coins on Wednesday, while the Langley branch of Whidbey Island Bank got 100 on the same day. Both are small potatoes compared to Wal-Mart. According to Nellie Durham, assistant manager at the Oak Harbor mega-store, they will get 10,000 a week at least through February.It was too early to tell much about how South Whidbey consumers are greeting the coin. Gene Felton, Star Store owner, said earlier this week that his grocery clerks had seen only one, and that particular clerk put it in her purse.That's exactly the reaction the United States Mint doesn't want to see. The Associated Press quoted Philip Diehl, director of the U.S. Mint, as saying the idea of the Wal-Mart connection is that it gets the new dollar coin into cash registers across the nation. Nation wide, 100 million of the coins were shipped to Wal-Mart stores and the same number to banks. The mint will produce up to one billion coins this year.There appears to be interest in the coin on South Whidbey. Sunny Worsley, customer service representative at InterWest's Clinton branch, said they've had tons of requests for the coin. Noting the initial shipment of only 200, she added, We're definitely on rationing mode. Initially, the limit was two per customer.I think they're going to be collector's items, Worsley said. Like the new quarters, they'll get hoarded.Gloria Craig, customer service representative at Whidbey Island Bank in Langley, said her bank had a lot of requests for the coins last week but they weren't available then. The Langley branch started with a limit of 10 per customer.Craig said lots of interest in the new coin has been shown by younger people. Kids love them, she said.As for her own opinion, Craig was disappointed in the color. I thought they'd be really, really gold, she said. Instead, the Sacajawea is a flat gold color. No real gold is used in the coin.The U.S. Mint wants the new coin to be popular and widely circulated. Its last stab at a dollar coin was the quarter-like Susan B. Anthony, which never gained favor with the public.The Sacajawea is slightly bigger and heavier than a quarter, gold rather than silver in color, and has a smooth edge so the visually impaired can tell it from a quarter.Wal-Mart's Durham said the coin's reception in Oak Harbor has been cool in many cases. People don't really want to accept them, and when they get'em they save' em, she said. According to rules laid down by the U.S. Mint, Wal-Mart can dole out only two Sacajaweas per transaction. As a result, the store has had trouble getting rid of its weekly allotment.Durham predicts the new gold coin will become just a collector's thing -- we had one guy who wanted 10,000 of them. Unfortunately, that was 9,998 over Wal-Mart's limit.Coin honors Indian guideThe new dollar coin honors Sacajawea, a Shoshone Indian girl who served as a guide and interpreter for the Lewis & Clark Expedition from 1804 to 1806. Her name translates as Bird Woman.Sacajawea started the trip as a pregnant 16-year-old. She survived the birth of her child and carried her infant with her on the arduous journey across the continent.Her presence helped ensure friendly contract with Indian tribes. At one point she persuaded the Shoshones to provide horses to the expedition.She was born in what is now Idaho about 1787. She was captured by the Minnetarees tribe in 1800 and sold to a French-Canadian trapper named Toussaint Charboneau, who later married her and then joined Lewis & Clark. Sacajawea is thought to have died among the Mandan Indians in 1812.Source: Family Encyclopedia of American History, Reader's Digest."

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