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New coins will depict dead former presidents

WASHINGTON -- New dollar coins featuring all 37 of the nation's deceased presidents will be produced by the US Mint in 2007 under a bill Congress is sending to President Bush.

Lawmakers hope the coins -- and an accompanying $10 gold piece for collectors featuring the former presidents' wives -- will be a big money raiser for the government like the 50-state quarter program. They also hope the dollar pieces will rev up interest in the Sacagawea dollars, which have been little-used.

The quarter program had raked in roughly $4 billion in revenues by its midpoint, said Becky Bailey, a US Mint spokeswoman.

''The dollar coin is a valuable educational tool -- much like the 50-state quarter series -- that will help inspire interest in the history of the leaders of our country," Senator John Sununu, Republican of New Hampshire and the sponsor of the legislation, said in a statement. It passed the House, 291 to 113.

The front of the coins will depict former presidents, but not those who are living or have been dead for less than two years, and the backs would show the Statue of Liberty. Four coins a year would be issued, beginning in 2007, in the presidents' order of service. The Treasury secretary would have authority over the designs.

As of now, there would be 38 coins issued for the 37 presidents -- Grover Cleveland served two nonconsecutive terms and would be on two coins.

The bill also would create a companion gold bullion coin program bearing the images of the former presidents' wives and emblems of their causes on $10 coins. Companion coins for those presidents who had no spouse would show images of liberty and themes of the presidents' tenures. The coins would be 99.99 percent pure gold.

The Sacagawea coin, named for the Indian woman who helped Meriwether Lewis and William Clark find their way to the Pacific, will be one-third of the dollar coins issued.

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