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. . . and glitter

MOVE over, Indian Head pennies, Buffalo nickels, Mercury dimes, and other nostalgic coins from America's past. There's a new coin on the block these days, and if early indications are any guide, its presence will soon be glittering in many an American's safe deposit box, if not change purse or wallet. We're referring, of course, to the American Eagle, being marketed this week by the United States Treasury. The American Eagle is the first US gold coin to be minted for general circulation since 1933, when President Roosevelt took the nation off the gold standard.

The new gold coins come in four sizes, ranging from one-tenth of an ounce up to a full ounce. Prices will vary with the price of gold. At present, gold is selling for about $425 an ounce.

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The new coins, naturally, won't be in everyone's pocket. Many Americans will find them too exotic, if not far too expensive. Still, Americans spent more than $1 billion on gold coins last year -- mainly for South African and Canadian coins. Now, the Treasury will earn some money, based on a minting charge, and US-based gold mines will get a rejuvenation of sorts. And there's an important intangible: Somehow, having a gold coin -- even a small tenth-of-an-ounce coin -- cannot help adding a luster to all those other composite alloys jingling in your pocket.

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