- The Washington Times - Friday, February 28, 2003

Virginia lawmakers said yesterday that they are confident that the image of Thomas Jefferson's home, Monticello, will return to its place on the back of the nickel, replacing his favorite adventurers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark.

The House on Wednesday voted 412-5 on a bill that gives the U.S. Mint the go-ahead to change the image on the back side of the nickel over the next three years to commemorate the bicentennial of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase and the 1804-06 Lewis and Clark expedition.

Monticello will return in 2006, according to lawmakers.

"It's a good bill. We hope it will be introduced as soon as possible in the Senate," said Rob Collins, press secretary for Rep. Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, who sponsored the bill. It could not be determined yesterday when the Senate would take up the bill.

Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., New Jersey Democrat, was one of five House members who voted against allowing Jefferson's self-designed Monticello home to appear on the nickel again. "[Mr. Pascrell] said Alexander Hamilton was right about Thomas Jefferson," Pascrell spokesman David Filippelli said.

Mr. Filippelli was referring to the political battles in the 1700s as Hamilton, George Washington's good friend, became the country's first Treasury secretary, and Jefferson became the third president.

"[Mr. Pascrell] said Monticello should be removed for good," Mr. Filippelli said. "He said the government can find better use for its money in these economic times."

Before being elected to Congress, Mr. Pascrell was mayor of Paterson, N.J., Hamilton's hometown.

Mr. Cantor said Mint officials came to his office in the summer with plans to replace the image of Monticello, which is located in his district near Charlottesville, with images of America's western expansion. "The folks of Monticello and people in Virginia got very upset," he said.

Under Mr. Cantor's proposal, Jefferson, who made the Louisiana Purchase and was the force behind the Lewis and Clark expedition, would remain on the front side of the coin.

The legislation passed the House in the summer, but was not taken up by the Senate.

Michael White, a spokesman for the Mint, declined to comment on the House action, saying only that the Mint is continuing to work with Congress on the bill. The Mint also plans a 2004 Lewis and Clark commemorative silver dollar. The redesign of the Jefferson nickel will cost an estimated $300,000, Mint officials have said.

Mr. Cantor said his bill also creates a citizens' advisory group to make recommendations to the secretary of the Treasury on future changes to U.S. coinage.

He said the main purpose of the group would be to help "avoid the Sacajawea experience," referring to the dollar coin issued in 2000 carrying the image of the Shoshone woman who helped guide Lewis and Clark to the Pacific Ocean.

Like some other dollar coins, it failed to catch on with the American public.

First minted in 1938, the Jefferson five-cent piece, designed by Felix Schlag, has remained virtually unchanged. The front features a profile of Jefferson while the reverse holds an image of Monticello's West Portico.

Before 1938, the nickel was adorned with an American Indian head on the front and a standing buffalo on the back.

By law, the Treasury Department can change the images after 25 years. Coin collectors have hailed changes because the coins become more valuable as souvenirs later.

Mr. Collins said the latest legislation is "a good compromise" because it upholds one of the country's Founding Fathers. "We can't know, of course, how it will be processed in the Senate," he said.


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