February 26, 2007

The Buck Stops Here

Dear United States Treasury Department:

Please stop trying to get Americans interested in adopting a $1 coin. The last time Americans took a $1 coin seriously was in 1921, the last year the magnificent Morgan Silver Dollar was minted.

Just so you know, the Morgan Silver Dollar was your last best chance to get Americans to eschew the paper dollar, and you blew it. And, no, the Peace Silver Dollars didn't even come close. In fact, I'd argue the Peace Silver Dollar probably played a role in the rise of Nazi Germany and WWII. I'm not sure how, exactly, but there has to be a historical link somewhere. Someone should commission a study.

Anyway, after the Peace Silver Dollar debacle, you apparently got wise for about a quarter century and didn't try for a $1 coin again until 1971, when the Eisenhower coin was all the rage, by which I mean people basically shrugged and continued to use the paper dollar. And, can you blame them? I mean, they hadn't seen a $1 coin in over 25 years, so it was kind of like dropping a black and white Betty Boop into an episode of "The Simpsons." Oh, sure, it was a novelty at first, but eventually people figured, "what's the point?"

Well, around 1978, even you realized the Eisenhower dollar coin was a flop, so what did you go and do come 1979? You went and started minting the most tragically stupid $1 coin ever conceived: the Susan B. Anthony dollar. Only Jimmy Carter could have approved such a coin, as it's no big secret he hated currency and believed all transactions should be conducted using peanuts as the medium of monetary exchange.

Americans rejected the Susan B. Anthony dollar in droves, and not just because Ms. Anthony reminded everyone of the strictest elementary school teacher they ever had. No, in addition to that, the coin was almost exactly the same size as a quarter and, as anyone will tell you, one incident of confusing a dollar with a quarter is one incident way too many. Still, you limped ahead with that colossal coin failure until 1981, at which point it was hoped you'd stop tinkering with the idea of a $1 coin. Alas, it was not to be.

For your next $1 coin, you did what any sensible person does when looking for the next bad idea: you turned to Canada. Canada was having success with their own dollar coin, because they came up with the groundbreaking idea of--in addition to it being substantially bigger than their quarter--making their dollar coin look gold.

So, come 2000, the American people were once again introduced to a $1 coin, this time in the form of the gold-looking Sacajawea dollar. These coins were an instant success, by which I mean they were widely used to fill graduation envelopes because they made otherwise cheap donations of $5 or less seem more generous for some reason.

Other than graduation donations, and as change from stamp machines, however, the Sacajawea coins just never caught on. Americans, once again. stubbornly refused to relinquish their beloved and comforting $1 bills.

Unfortunately, because you're a government entity, you apparently can't understand the concept of a bad idea that has been roundly rejected no less than four times in the last 100 years. The $1 coin is like a bad penny. . . or something like that. It just keeps coming around, despite the fact nobody wants it. It's like the flu of currency.

So, here we are again, in 2007, facing another round of dollar coins, complete with fresh promises that, this time, things will be different. And, just like ex-girlfriends who came back into my life promising they had changed, I simply don't believe you.

Okay, so, maybe no ex-girlfriends ever came back into my life, but I stand by the analogy.

Posted by Ryan at February 26, 2007 12:02 PM | TrackBack

You know, I can see why Americans like their dollar coins, but when I was in the UK I really enjoyed their one- and two-pound coins. And I also quite like the Canadian loonies and two dollar pieces. I like not having to face them. I like not needing a separate interface to use them in vending machines. I like not having to deal with vending machines that don't like them because they're wrinkled or torn. And I like paying for small purchases with a single coin.

Since most other places use coins of approximately one dollar (and even two to five dollars, in the case of the UK) value, I tend to think Americans are just parochial in their thinking on this matter.

Posted by: Joshua at February 26, 2007 04:35 PM

In Japan, the lowest denomination bill is, basically, a $10, which means coins for both $1 and $5. I didn't like that for a couple of reasons, not the least of which being you could have a FORTUNE in spare change, but dragging it around was a pain in the ass. An occasional dollar coin here in the states is one thing, but as soon as you have four or five in your pocket, it becomes quite a little burden.

Posted by: Ryan at February 26, 2007 04:45 PM

I have to admit when I was in Canada several years back I enjoyed buying beer with "loonies" because it made me feel like Clint Eastwood. Flinging a heavy coin onto a bar is much cooler than putting down a piece of linen. However, it is true that when you're carrying a pocketful (or a Fistful) it does tend to be a pain in the ass.

I think the design has been a major problem. For the most part the coins have been about the size and weight of a quarter, and those little octagonal ridges didn't do shit to help me distinguish them.

I'm surprised you didn't mention the theory (that I've heard quite often) that dollar coins are a secret government conspiracy to make you spend more of your hard-earned cash because we place less value on coins than on paper bills... so you'll be more likely to buy that snickers bar or whatever because you're only spending spare change.

To me its a simple case of whatever makes the most sense. I'm totally behind the elimination of the penny because they cost more than a penny to make. I've heard arguments that dollar coins are actually less costly and more environmentally responsible than linen dollars because coins stay in circulation for 2.7 million years whereas bills disintegrate on contact. But I don't know if that's true.

Posted by: DG at March 7, 2007 12:39 PM
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