COINS Act is Deja Vu all over again

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) once again introduced the Currency Optimization, Innovation, and National Savings Act of 2017 (COINS Act). Similar to the same bill he introduced in the last congress, the COINS Act (S. 759) proposed to end the production of the $1 Federal Reserve Note, reduce the production cost of the five cent coin by changing its composition, and eliminating the one cent coin. Mike Enzi (R-WY) is a co-sponsor.

“With our country facing $20 trillion in debt, Congress must act to protect the American taxpayer,” in a statement issued by McCain’s staff. “By reforming and modernizing America’s outdated currency system, this commonsense bill would bring about billions in savings without raising taxes.”

Of course “common sense” has a very different definition in Washington than the rest of the country. The first attempt to introduce a bill to end the production of the $1 note started in 1991 by then Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) and died at the end of the 102nd Congress. Kolbe introduced the legislation every session until his retirement in 2007 following the adjournment of the 109th congress. McCain has introduced the bill in the last three sessions of congress.

“Change can be hard sometimes, but switching to a dollar coin could save our country $150 million a year,” Enzi said. “Our country is in a difficult financial position because we didn’t value the cost of the dollars we spent. We can’t afford to keep that up, and these innovative opportunities are a way to save taxpayer money that is really just being wasted with each new dollar we print and penny we mint.”

I am sure that the usual arguments about eliminating the paper dollar will come up again. Even though a GAO report has shown that eliminating the paper dollar could save the government about $4.4 billion in production and handling costs, economic surveys have claimed a potential $16-18 billion benefit for the government.

When the public is asked about eliminating the paper dollar, the arguments usually line up along generational lines. Surveys have shown that Baby Boomers (those born before 1964) and those older are overwhelmingly not in favor of eliminating the the paper note. The GenXers, those born 1965-1980, are almost evenly divided while the Millenials, those born since 1980, do not care because they are mostly tied to their credit and debit cards.

The Baby Boomer that writes this blog is in favor of eliminating the paper dollar. In the past, he was in favor of eliminating the one cent coin but is beginning to have second thoughts.

For the longest time, the Massachusetts delegation have held these types of bills back. This is because the Dalton, Massachusetts based Crane & Co., the maker of currency paper, has been the exclusive currency paper supplier to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing since 1879. Although Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has become a more powerful figure in the Senate, she is not a favorite amongst the majority and is tolerated by the more centrist members of her own party. Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) does not have the gravitas either of his predecessors, the late Ted Kennedy and John Kerry, to yield influence. The only power the Senators have would be to filibuster any measure that would eliminate the $1 note. Sen. Warren has railed against military-related spending for non-essential equipment so that members of congress could keep these jobs in their districts. Would she be willing to follow her lead that could reduce the revenue of a company in her home state?

POLL: Real or Real Fishy?

Yesterday I wrote about the announcement that the fifth edition of A Guide Book of Morgan Silver Dollars by Q. David Bowers will include evidence that a 1964 Morgan Dollar exists or has existed. As part of their press release, they sent out an image of the cover with the coin. I questioned whether this is real given that their image appears to be of a circulated coin.

After the story posted I have heard from a few readers in private email (I wish you would post it to the page for everyone to read) strongly on one side or another. One person asked why I question the well-respected Q. David Bowers. I responded that just because he is respected does not mean he is not fallible. Bowers is still human and can make mistakes. Besides, we do not learn about our world if questions are not asked.

To add to the suspicion, if you look at the image carefully, there appears to be doubling in the portrait. Look at the left side of Liberty’s face in the image of the 1964 coin and see the doubled image. There is also doubling over Liberty’s throat. Compare it to a known mint state Morgan Dollar and the questions mount.

You decide! Click on the images to enlarge and use the slideshow controls to examine both coins. Do you see the doubling? Do you see the wearing? What do you think?
 

Do you think the report of the existence a 1964 Morgan Dollar is real?

No, it's a fish story to sell books. (40%, 10 Votes)
Maybe but I am just not sure. (24%, 6 Votes)
Let's wait and see when the book is released. (24%, 6 Votes)
Given the source of the information it has to be real. (12%, 3 Votes)

Total Voters: 25

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Credits

Is the 1964 Morgan a fish story?

A Guide Book Morgan Silver Dollars 5th Ed.That explosion you might have heard was the collective minds of the numismatic community when it was revealed that a 1964 Morgan Dollar exists, or at least once existed.

The press release issued by Whitman Publishing for the new fifth edition of A Guide Book of Morgan Silver Dollars, by Q. David Bowers, that included the following paragraph:

The pricing, text, and certified population data in the fifth edition have been edited and updated. New research covers counterfeit error coins and other topics, including a numismatic bombshell: recent discoveries and photographs revealing the previously unknown 1964 Morgan silver dollar. (emphasis added)

Whitman included an image of the cover as part of its promotion of the book and features this coin. Its grey matte appearance with some flatness on Liberty’s face gives the appearance of a circulated coin.

No other information has been provided.

Close-up of the alleged 1964 Morgan Dollar

Close-up of the alleged 1964 Morgan Dollar from the cover of A Guide Book to Morgan Silver Dollars 5th Ed. by Q. David Bowers

Without seeing the evidence that is published in the book, the condition of the coin can lead one to question its authenticity. If the coin was a trial or experimental strike that coincides with the striking of the 1964 Peace Dollar, then should the coin appear uncirculated?

What if this coin was part of a rogue like the 1974-D Lincoln cent struck on an aluminum planchet? Did it really exist as a legitimate coin?

We will find out on September 27, 2017 when the book is scheduled to be released to retail outlets (or preorder on Whitman’s website). Until then, we are left to wonder if this is legitimate or a great fish story to sell books?

Cover photo courtesy of Whitman Publishing.

Proof was in the change

2009-S James K. Polk Dollar PROOF found in change

2009-S James K. Polk Dollar PROOF found in change

Sometimes I am amazed at what other people find in their daily change. While I tend to pick up a few foreign coins or some old wheat cents, I have never picked up anything really interesting until the other day.

During a visit to a numerically named convenience store for a cold beverage, I noticed that there were a few “golden dollars” in the register. The cashier hesitated to give them to me but I told her I was a collector and was interested especially since the one on top was very shiny. After trading three paper notes for the coins my suspicion was correct. The coin is a 2009-S James K. Polk Presidential dollar.

While the coin can be used for one dollar in trade, whomever purchased it paid more and could have sold it for at least $5 rather than placing it in circulation. While we do not know the conditions that caused this coin to be in the cash register at the time I stopped in the store, it has been rescued from circulation and will find its way into a collection. I will probably add it to my coin club’s charity auction this December.

U.S. Mint gets partisan

United States MintLike almost every business and government agency, the U.S. Mint has been leveraging social media to engage collectors and possibly attract new collectors to purchase coins. One of the places that the U.S. Mint engages the public is on Facebook.

During the last few weeks the U.S. Mint has been appropriately promoting their products but interspersed between their posts are quite a number of posts have been several posts talking about the history of the president featured on the last coin issued in the Presidential $1 Coin program.

2016 Ronald Reagan dollar & 2016-W Nancy Reagan $10 gold coin

2016 Ronald Reagan dollar & 2016-W Nancy Reagan $10 gold coin

The 39th and final coin of the Presidential $1 coins honors Ronald Reagan, the 40th president. Bypassing Jimmy Carter who has survived for 91 years, Reagan ends the series. As part of the release of the Reagan dollar, the U.S. Mint is promoting the release of the coin but seems to have gone overboard promoting Reagan and not the coin.

Aside from their over promotion of Reagan on social media, the U.S. Mint has a special section about Reagan’s life on their website. The information rivals something that would appear something on a history-related website or the Reagan Library.

Regardless of how one feels about Reagan, a federal agency should never favor one president over another. If the U.S. Mint has done the same for each of the presidents, then this would not be a problem. But to single out Reagan is counter to the nonpartisan mission of the U.S. Mint.

Why did the U.S. Mint pick Reagan for this type of treatment? Aside from the partisan issues, Reagan’s presidency would not be considered the most historic of those honored on dollar coins released in 2016. Gerald Ford was appointed Vice President in 1973 upon the resignation of Spiro Agnew. This was the first time that someone was appointed Vice President under the terms of the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Prior to becoming Vice President, Ford was the House Minority Leader at the time and was well respected by both sides of the aisle.

Ford became the 38th president following the resignation of Richard Nixon marking the first time a president rose to the office without being elected to a national office. Using the 25th Amendment, Ford appointed Nelson Rockefeller (R-NY) as the Vice President.

Aside from presiding over the nation’s bicentennial, his transition from House Minority Leader to President not only tested the constitution but helped prove its strength in society. Although it was a difficult period for economic and world history, Ford was a significant figure in maintaining the union during this time.

Political rhetoric and correctness may have been a driver for the U.S. Mint to single out Reagan. Reagan was just another president compared to the tumultuous rise of Ford. If one president had to be honored for 2016, Ford’s presidency was more historic and deserves recognition.

2016 Presidential Dollar Releases
2016 Richard M. Nixon dollar coin

2016 Richard M. Nixon dollar coin

2016 Gerald R. Ford dollar coin

2016 Gerald R. Ford dollar coin

2016 Ronald Reagan dollar coin

2016 Ronald Reagan dollar coin

All images courtesy of the U.S. Mint.

Riding off into the sunset

2016 Reagan coins

2016 Ronald Reagan dollar & 2016-W Nancy Reagan $10 gold coin

If there is news that you want buried, you would release the news on Friday afternoon. Washington politicians are notorious for creating these media dumps late on Friday. By the time the media can digest the dump, the press offices are closed for the weekend leaving the media to try to explain the stories based on what they have. However, the public is into its weekend and fewer are paying attention.

On the Friday before the Independence Day celebration weekend, the U.S. Mint released the Ronald Reagan dollar and Nancy Reagan first spouse coin marking the end of the program.

The Presidential Dollar program has had an interesting history. Passed by congress in December 2005 and later signed by President George W. Bush, the Presidential $1 Coin Act (Pub. L. 108-145) ordered the U.S. Mint to create a $1 coin to commemorate the Nation’s past Presidents and an accompanying $10 gold coin to commemorate the President’s spouse (First Lady). Coins appeared in order that the president served and the president must be deceased for two year prior to the coin’s issue. Since Jimmy Carter is still living, he was bypassed and the last coin was for Ronald Reagan.

2012 First Spouse coin featuring Alice Paul

2012 First Spouse coin featuring Alice Paul

First Spouse gold coin, they bore the image of the first spouse of the corresponding president with historical information about the spouse on the reverse are issued for each spouse. For the cases where the president was widowed prior to taking office, the obverse of a contemporary coin was used and a historical image is used on the reverse. The only exception was the 2012 coin honoring Alice Paul to coincide with the Chester A. Arthur presidential dollar. Since Arthur was widowed prior to his inauguration, the law gave the honor to Alice Paul, a suffragette who was born during Arthur’s administration. The program ended with the issue of the Nancy Reagan coin.

For the first time in the modern era the date, mintmark, and mottos “E Pluribus Unum” and “In God We Trust” struck into (incuse) the edge of the coin. The last time edge lettering was used on circulating U.S. coinage was in the 1790s.

With the edge lettering a new process for the U.S. Mint, it was no surprised that coins left the Mint without the mottos stamped in the edge. Dubbed the “godless dollar” the error caused an uproar over some people suggesting that the government was conspiring against religion by leaving the motto off of the coin. This was described as either a willful omission or a way to attack religion. There was no narrative that accepted that this was just a mistake.

Our national nightmare ended when congress updated the law (Pub. L. 110-161) to move the motto from the edge to the obverse of the coin. E Pluribus Unum, the date and mintmark was left on the edge.

Then there was the breathless story by National Public Radio that decried the tax dollars being wasted by the approximately $1.4 Billion of dollar coins being stored in the Federal Reserves’ vaults. The story was filled with partial truths and did not properly explain the situation. When I tried to reach out to NPR, I was rebuffed by a reporter who decided a low-level Treasury staffer who did not have the first clue about reality was more credible

While the media was blaming the U.S. Mint and the Federal Reserve, they forgot to read the law. According to the law, there were mintage minimums that congress wrote into the law including the one that said the Sacagawea dollar was to comprise one-third of the dollar coin production. As part of the legislation, the U.S. Mint and Federal Reserve were supposed to promote the coin’s use and provide educational materials for the public.

Congress, who wrote and passed the original legislation, was tripping all over themselves to introduce bills to end the program while pounding their collective chests claiming they were acting in the public interest.

This nightmare ended when then Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner ordered a reduction in the production of all dollar coins. None of the bills introduced to eliminate the dollar coin were ever heard in committee and died at the end of the 113th congress.

But the series couldn’t continue without one more controversy. The way the law was written, it was interpreted that it would end with the first living president. In this case, the program would have ended with the coin honoring Gerald Ford since Jimmy Carter is still living. This did not sit well with the fans of Ronald Reagan who have spent the time since his convalescence and death trying to plaster his name all over everything including an airport that employed air traffic controllers he fired placing the nation’s skies at risk.

The same members of congress that introduced bills to eliminate the program were now demanding the program be extended by one president. Ironically, they waited until after the resignation of Mint Director Edmund Moy and approached the acting Director Richard Peterson. Although Peterson was named acting director, he was a career government employee with impeccable credentials but had to have a different relationship with the politicians than an appointed director would. The matter was deferred to Treasurer Rosie Rios and Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew who approved the extension of the program.

Presidential Dollars
2007:
George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison
2008:
James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren
2009:
William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, James K. Polk, Zachary Taylor
2010:
Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Abraham Lincoln
2011:
Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James Garfield
2012:
Chester A. Arthur, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, Grover Cleveland
2013:
William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson
2014:
Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt
2015:
Harry S Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson
2016:
Richard M. Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan

First Spouse Gold $10 Coins
2007:
Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, Thomas Jefferson’s Liberty,† Dolley Madison
2008:
Elizabeth Monroe, Louisa Adams, Andrew Jackson’s Liberty,† Martin Van Buren’s Liberty†
2009:
Anna Harrison, Letitia Tyler,‡ Julia Tyler,†† Sarah Polk, Margaret Taylor
2010:
Abigail Fillmore, Jane Pierce, James Buchanan’s Liberty,* Mary Lincoln
2011:
Eliza Johnson, Julia Grant, Lucy Hayes, Lucretia Garfield
2012:
Alice Paul,¶ Frances Cleveland (first term), Caroline Harrison,‡ Frances Cleveland (second term)
2013:
Ida McKinley, Edith Roosevelt, Helen Taft, Ellen Wilson,‡ Edith Wilson††
2014:
Florence Harding, Grace Coolidge, Lou Hoover, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt
2015:
Elizabeth Truman, Mamie Eisenhower, Jacqueline Kennedy, Claudia Taylor “Lady Bird” Johnson
2016:
Patricia Ryan “Pat” Nixon, Betty Ford, Nancy Reagan
Footnotes:

President was widowed prior to inauguration
First Spouse died during the president’s term
††
Married the president during the president’s term
*
James Buchanan was the only bachelor president
President Chester Arthur was widowed prior to inauguration. However, the authorizing law gives the coin honor to Alice Paul, a suffragette who was born during Arthur’s administration

When the Reagan dollar was issued, 39 presidents representing 40 terms were issued.

Along with Nancy Reagan, 35 other first spouses were honored (Frances Cleveland appeared twice), four different Liberty coins were issued, and one was issued to honor suffragette Alice Paul.

President Reagan horseback riding at Rancho del Cielo

President Reagan horseback riding at Rancho del Cielo with Freebo (his daughter’s dog) and Victory the golden retriever following.

As the program now quietly rides off into the proverbial sunset, maybe it is time to let the America the Beautiful Quarters® complete their run through 2021 and give the circulating commemoratives a rest.

Credits

  • Coin images courtesy of the U.S. Mint
  • Reagan on horsback “April 4, 1986 photo courtesy Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum.” Downloaded from PresidentialPetMuseum.com

Sacagawea on the new $20 designs

Obverse of the 2009-present Native American Dollar

Obverse of the 2009-present Native American Dollar featuring the portrait of Sacagawea

Last month, Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew announced a series of design changes that will occur on United States currency. These changes will be phased in over 10 years to coincide with the production schedules in place currency redesign.

I will go into the more details of the changes at a later date, but during my travels around the interwebs I came across a television news report from KIFI, the ABC affiliate in Fort Hall, Idaho. Although it is like every other news story it has one feature that no other news outlet was able to add to their story: an interview with Randy’L Teton.

Randy’L Teton is a member of the Shoshone-Cree tribe who was the model for Glenna Goodacre’s design for the Sacagawea dollar coin. Teton was a student at the University of New Mexico majoring in art history and was working for the Institute of American Indian Arts Museum in Santa Fe when Goodacre visited looking for Shoshone woman to be her model since no images of Sacagawea exist. Teton was chosen for as the model.

For anyone who has not seen or heard Ms. Teton, here is the video of KIFI’s report:

Is the $100 bill the next to go?

The latest attack on the money in your pocket is the talk about eliminating the highest denomination banknotes. This discussion was intensified in the political policy world with the article by Lawrence Summers that appeared in The Washington Post. Summers is a professor at Harvard and had once been the Secretary of the Treasury and Director of the White House’s National Economic Council.

Summers cites a paper by Peter Sands of Harvard and students that claims to make a compelling case to stop issuing high denomination notes and possibly withdraw them from circulation because of its use in crime and corruption.

Crime is mostly a cash-based enterprise. Criminals do not use gold, checks, or credit cards. As those of us who use cash over other payment types understand, cash is more anonymous. Cash transactions can be used to perform untraceable transaction that could be used to evade taxes. Criminals use cash to avoid law enforcement and terrorists use cash to fund their activities outside of the monitoring of financial transactions. In fact, Sands notes that these criminals have nicknamed the €500 note the “Bin Laden.”

In order to carry out cash-based transactions is the ability to carry the cash. Sands’ paper and Summers’ article both say that lower denomination currency will make it difficult to carry large volumes of currency in order to make these transactions. Considering the weight of United States currency, carrying $1 million worth of $100 Federal Reserve Notes would weigh about 10 kilograms (22.0462 pounds). Using a 15 liters (just under 4 gallons) as the “standard” briefcase capacity, you could carry $1 million in 0.7 cases.

As a comparison, $1 million worth of $50 Federal Reserve Notes would require 1.4 briefcases and 3.5 briefcases when using $20 notes. If the $1 million was being paid using €500 notes, it would weigh 2.2 kilograms or about 4.85 pounds that takes up a quarter of a briefcase.

Weight of $1 million using U.S. Federal Reserve Notes

Comparison of the weight of the equivalent of $1 million using U.S. Federal Reserve Notes

Weight of the equivalent of $1 million using euro currency

Comparison of the weight of the equivalent of $1 million using euro currency

Sands says:

By eliminating high denomination, high value notes we would make life harder for those pursuing tax evasion, financial crime, terrorist finance and corruption. Without being able to use high denomination notes, those engaged in illicit activities – the “bad guys” of our title – would face higher costs and greater risks of detection. Eliminating high denomination notes would disrupt their “business models”.

Summers agrees with Sands and even suggests that the baseline currencies, specifically the dollar and the euro, should “stop issuing notes worth more than say $50 or $100.” Both consider demonetizing these high denomination notes a step in the right direction.

$207 Million in $100 notes seized as part of a drug raid in 2007

$207 Million in $100 notes seized as part of a drug raid in 2007

In the world of policy analysis there is the concept of the three-legged stool. The first leg is to identify the policy, which is what Sands’ paper does. Next would be to translate the policy idea into something that could be used as the basis for a law. The final step is something to drive the policy to be considered by the lawmakers in order to do something with the policy.

This is how the one cent coin went from being 95-percent copper to being copper-covered zinc. There was the idea to change the composition of the coin in order to save money. After the idea, there was the research and the law writing that went into changing the composition. As part of that second-leg exercise was the creation of the 1974 aluminum cent pattern. Finally, by 1982, the costs were so out of line that it became the driver that forced action.

Although the article and report has been well discussed as part of the financial press it is not likely to be acted on in the near future. It is only the first leg. It will take time before this stool gets its two other legs.

Images were copied from the report “Making it Harder for the Bad Guys: The Case for Eliminating High Denomination Notes,” by Peter Sands, et. al.

History for a half-dollar

2016 Native American Dollar celebrates the contributions of the Native American Code Talkers in World War I and World War II

2016 Native American Dollar celebrates the contributions of the Native American Code Talkers in World War I and World War II

Last year, I wrote that one of the most under appreciated coins currently being produced by the U.S. Mint are the Native American Dollars. Featuring the portrait of Sacagawea with her infant son, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, was designed by Glenna Goodacre for the original Sacagawea dollar that began production in 2000. Since 2009, the reverse was changed as part of the Native American $1 Coin Act (Pub.L. 100-82). Under the law, the reverse of the one dollar coin “shall depict images celebrating the important contributions made by Indian tribes and individual Native Americans to the development of the United States and the history of the United States.”

The reverse designs has represented some of the best work by the artists working with the U.S. Mint with the 2016 design continuing the record. Celebrating the Native American Code Talkers who were instrumental in using their native language to communicate troop movements and enemy positions, the reverse of the coin celebrates their work.

As someone who has made a career in technology and information security, the concept of using something as low-tech as a language that nobody else can translate to openly communicate secret information is an elegant solution. It proves that technology is an answer but not the only answer. It makes these people heroes for their service to a country that has not treated their people fairly over the course of history.

Learning and honoring the history of Native Americans was the goal of the Native American $1 Coin Act. It is a simple yet effective way to bring history to the masses. Although the dollar coin does not circulate well, it is still a nice way for the country to teach and honor history.

I don't think JFK would mind using the reverse to honor U.S. history!

I don’t think JFK would mind using the reverse to honor U.S. history!

I was thinking about what could be done to honor other aspects of United States history. Why not use another coin to celebrate something that has shaped the country in some way. With over 200 years of history, there is a lot to choose from. I propose that beginning in 2017 the reverse of the Kennedy half-dollar be changed every year to celebrate an anniversary of something significant in U.S. history.

As I consider writing a draft version of the bill to send to my representatives in congress, I know that any good coinage program in the United States should have some guidelines. Far be it for congress to tell the U.S. Mint to do what it thinks is right. In order to satisfy something that congress would adopt and create a meaningful program, how about a Half-Dollar history program as follows:

  • The obverse will remain unchanged, the edge will continue to be reeded, and the coin will remain a half-dollar
  • Reverse design changes annually and only one design per year
  • Half-dollar can be made for circulation and the U.S. Mint can create collector versions including silver collectibles and different finishes
  • Theme for the reverse must be from 50 years prior to the year of circulation and older with anniversary dates being divisible by 25 (i.e., 50 years ago, 75, 100, 125, 150, etc.)
  • Theme will be selected by the U.S. Mint in collaboration with the CCAC and the Smithsonian Institute National Museum of American History
  • The U.S. Mint creates the design for the theme selected by either using in-house artists, AIP members, or may hold an open competition
  • The CCAC will review the designs
  • The program will have no end date

Although there was no such thing as having a minor when I went to college, I did use some of my elective credits to take some classes in history and political science. Add my masters in public policy and some people wonder why I don’t run for office (I hate the idea of begging for campaign contributions). With that background, I was able to think of a few historical events that could be honored over the next few years:

2017: The 150th anniversary since the U.S. purchased the Alaska territory from Alexander II of Russia by Secretary of State William H. Seward in 1867. This was so unpopular at the time it was called “Seward’s Folly.”
2018: World War I ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.
2019: “What hath God wrought” was the message of the first telegram message. It was sent from the U.S. Capitol to the B&O Railroad depot in Baltimore 175 years ago.
2020: The 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment granting suffrage for women
2021: The 50th anniversary of the passage of the 29th Amendment that lowered the voting age to 18.
2022: Celebrating 75 years of technical innovation. In 1947, Dr. Edwin Land introduced the Polaroid Land Camera, broadcast of the first World Series game, the USS Newport became the first warship that was fully air conditioned, Chuck Yeager breaks the sound barrier, and Bell Labs scientists introduces the first semiconductor are just some of the innovations to celebrate.

Purposely missing from this list is the 75th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s becoming the first African-American to appear in a Major League Baseball game in 1947. I fully expect that a commemorative coin will be issued for that event. If it is not, then congress should be ashamed of itself for not doing so.

Coin images courtesy of the U.S. Mint.

Pennies on a hot tin roof

Dollar-CentsOver the summer, a Harris Poll was conducted to understand how Americans feel about abolishing the one-cent coin and the paper dollar note. Even though there are pundits calling for these changes and even the end of physical currency, Harris found that those wanting to keep the lowly one-cent coin continue to hold the majority opinion.

Series 1935 $1 FRN Reverse Early Design

Series 1935 $1 FRN Reverse Early Design

According to Harris, 51-percent of those polled oppose abolishing the minting and use of one-cent coins versus 29-percent in favor. In 2008, 56-percent were opposed and 24-percent were in favor. While some will see a small movement to being in favor of eliminating the one-cent coin, the change is not significant when considering that the last poll was seven years ago shortly before the height of the recession and the beginning of the bank failures.

Every so often an article is written, usually by the political elite, about ending lower denomination coins for many reasons including the high cost of mintage or the inconvenience of their existence. Others point to rise of non-cash transactions and the rise of digitally created currencies as the future.

Those of us who work in areas outside the larger commercial world has experience with a cash economy that is not tied to economic status. One of those is the numismatics industry. While many dealers will take credit cards, and will pass along the fees along to the customer, many dealers have said that most of their off-line business is a cash-based business. While larger purchases are done using checks, most will leave shows with more hard currency than other types of payments.

1909-VDB Lincoln Cent

1909-VDB Lincoln Cent

Collectibles businesses are very reliant on cash. In my business, I do accept credit cards but when I do shows the overwhelming majority of my business is in cash. A few weeks ago I did a two day show and had one of my best weekends ever but only had one sale using a credit card.

There are people who are leery of using credit and debit cards for every transaction. We use cash to limit our exposure. In this connected world, the credit and debit card leaves a digital breadcrumb that is available to be hacked. I cannot tell you how many times I watched people in local convenience stores punch in their codes in a matter I could see them and then leave their receipts behind. This could be used to steal your money and your debit cards are not covered the same as credit cards. But the public does not see this.

A week does not go by without a report of the hacking of personal information that should not be made public. Unfortunately, it is getting to be like rain on the hot-tin roof, after a while the sound blends into the background.

According to the Federal Reserve, there was approximately $1.39 trillion in circulation as of September 30, 2015, of which $1.34 trillion was in Federal Reserve notes. That represents a lot of money that would have to be accounted for if we were to go into a cashless society. It would take a significant effort that would not make for good public policy.

The calls to make changes to change are beginning to drone on as background noise like rain on a hot-tin roof.

Images courtesy of The Harris Poll, Wikipedia, and usacoinbook.com.

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