I forgot the comedian’s name who had about depicting the cost of things in old movies. He explained that in old western movies, a man would dismount from his horse, amble up to the bar for a drink and throw down a coin for the libation. It did not matter what the drink cost. The drinker paid one large silver coin with a loud ping.
The silver dollar was the coin of the realm for the old west. It was hard money to go along with the hard times. Paper money had questionable value and could not be as trusted as a silver coin. Settling in the territories and building new lives on untamed land was risky and the feel of a metal coin was less risky than paper.
After the last Peace Dollar was struck in 1935, the U.S. Mint never minted another silver dollar for circulation again. The return of the large dollar coin came in 1971 with the copper-nickel Eisenhower Dollar. The coin was popular as a curiosity but waned until the bicentennial redesign. After the bicentennial, it seemed that the dollar coin had returned.
Then came the biggest failure of the modern coin era: Susan B. Anthony dollar.
Although the idea to honor suffragette Susan B. Anthony was sound, the rest of the coin’s design led to the long term rejection of dollar coins. The coin was smaller than the Eisenhower dollar but only slightly larger than a quarter. It was made using copper-nickel clad planchette and reeded edges that made it too similar to a quarter. Rather than being an 11- or 12-sided coin, it was round with a design that included a border to simulate the edges.
Many people tried to embrace the coin, but the confusion with the quarter was too costly. As college students, we abandoned the coin early. When the coin was spent as a quarter, we poor college students lost 75-cents per transaction or three cups of late-night coffee from the vending machine.
The introduction of the Sacagawea dollar in 1999 saw the basic planchet changed to fix all of the problems found in the Susie B. With the color change and the smooth edges, it was unlikely to be confused for another coin. Unfortunately, the Susie B. was such a failure that the coin has never gained traction in commerce.
The dollar coin programs of the 21st century have not been appreciated the way they should be. What better way to celebrate the republic’s longevity and the concept of the peaceful transfer of power than a celebration of the presidents? Since 2009, the coins celebrate the history of the Native American contributions with underappreciated designs.
Although some complain about a new series of coins, the American Innovation Dollar celebrates great inventions that have made life better. The coin is a better representation of the American spirit than a static design.
But there is no incentive to wean the country off of the paper dollar and embrace the coin. Even though Congress passed the laws to create these coins, they do not have the intestinal fortitude to eliminate the dollar note, as almost every first-world country has done. Instead, they pass laws creating coin series and wonder why they are not successful.
One of their alleged reason is that people do not want to change. But they are asking people who give specious reasons for resisting as “would you rather carry around 20 dollar coins or 20 $1 bills.” My response is, “neither. I would rather carry a $20 bill!”
It would be nice to join the civilized world and remove the $1 Federal Reserve Note from circulation. The coins have such exciting designs that they deserve circulation. Maybe someday the do-nothing Congress will figure it out–likely when its members’ average age dips below 60 years old!
And now the news…