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Dollar coins - again - MegaZone's Safety Valve
The Ramblings of a Damaged Mind
zonereyrie
zonereyrie
Dollar coins - again
Well, it looks like the U.S. Mint is going to try dollar coins again. This time with a gimmick! They're going to do a series with the faces of all the US presidents. Released in order of serving, 4 presidents a year, starting in 2007. Basically they're trying the '50 states quarter' trick with dollar coins.

Now, I love dollar coins, really. I used to think the big old Ike dollars were keen when I was a kid, and I still keep a couple just because. But I acknowledge that the big Ike's were not so pocket friendly. The Susan B. Anthony dollar coin - well, I thought that was a cluster fuck. It was almost the same size as the quarter, and the same color. Coins should be different sizes and/or different colors. If you can't pull a handful of change out of your pocket/wallet and immediately grab the right coins, it is a non-starter. Susies were too easily confused with quarters. Now, that could be fun if you're a wise-ass like myself - I used to get $20 in Susie's and then go out and buy lunch, etc. It was all the better when I could get some $2 bills and pay for stuff with a mix of $2 bills, Susies, and quarters - and watch the clerk's brain melt. I once has a Taco Bell clerk (the Taco Bell that is (was? I heard it is gone now) in the Tower Plaza across the street from the Burlington Mall, in Burlington, MA), back in 1995 or so, accuse me of trying to pass counterfeit money. He had to call his manager over - who just kind of shock his head and had to explain to the clerk that, yes, there really IS a $2 bill, and yes, those are dollar coins.

But, still, the fact that they worked for playing Confuse-A-Clerk makes them bad currency. Pretty much no one liked them, and they died.

Then a couple of years ago they came out with the Sacagawea coins, and they solved the big problem - they made them gold colored. They were the same size, weight, and density as the old Susies, and even had the same electrical properties - because they wanted them to work in any machine that accepted Susies. But they had a nice new design, and the color meant you'd never confuse one with a quarter in a handful of change. I used to get rolls of them and would use them regularly. But they never caught on, and I even ran into issues getting them from some bank branches which had stopped stocking the rolled coins due to lack of demand. So, eventually, I fell out of the habit of getting the coins since it took extra effort. Sometimes I get rolls of the coins, and $2 bills, just to satisfy my imp of the perverse, but that's it.

So now they're trying it again. And more coins on the market is a good thing - they last 30-40 years, while a dollar bill has an average lifespan of 18 months. But therein lies the problem - the dollar bill. To make the coins work they need to STOP MAKING DOLLAR BILLS! If they just ramped down bill production and allowed them to 'age out' of the money supply, then consumers and businesses would be pushed into using the coins bit by bit. And eventually no one would think twice about it. But they plan to keep producing the bills, thereby giving people no incentive to switch to coins. It is a Catch-22. People aren't going to want to carry the coins until more machines accept them, more stores give them out as change, etc. But businesses won't invest in any infrastructure as long as bill acceptors are still widely used, and cashier's will just keep giving out bills from habit as long as they're in the register.

This effort will probably flop, like the past two.

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Comments
purly From: purly Date: November 20th, 2006 09:34 pm (UTC) (Direct Link)
Just think, if they get rid of the $1 bill, strippers will get paid more! The US Treasury advocates better employment opportunities for young hott girls!
kadath From: kadath Date: November 20th, 2006 09:47 pm (UTC) (Direct Link)
In Canadian strip clubs, they sell paper vouchers for $1 and $2 (only available as coins in Canada) so that the patrons can still tip a couple of bucks. The dancers turn them in for real money at the end of the night.
etherial From: etherial Date: November 20th, 2006 09:35 pm (UTC) (Direct Link)

re: dollar bills

No 1-canuck bills...no 1-euro bills...I sense a pattern emerging.
From: dirkcjelli Date: November 20th, 2006 09:54 pm (UTC) (Direct Link)
http://www.carniola.org/images/euro%20coin.jpg

I like the look and feel of the one euro coin. It is 'bulls eye' shaped (link above)
From: dirkcjelli Date: November 20th, 2006 09:55 pm (UTC) (Direct Link)
also, the edges are milled differently... there are sections which are unmilled, followed by milled edges... three of each, for a total of six sections around the coin. Between the bulls-eye face and the edge, you can pull it out of the pocket w/o looking fairly easily.
rhysara From: rhysara Date: November 20th, 2006 10:09 pm (UTC) (Direct Link)
*hates coins*

*especially hates dollar coins*

When someone hands them to me I hand them right back and ask for bills instead. The fact that I wear sundresses without pockets for most of the summer months probably contributes to this dislike as it means that I don't have a place to put coins and so they get thrown in the change jar quickly and then I find myself wtithout money which in turn forces me to visit the bank which is never open when I need it.
brother_buford From: brother_buford Date: November 20th, 2006 10:14 pm (UTC) (Direct Link)
I used to confuse the hell out of cashiers with odd money. I once used a $2 bill (with red stamping, I think it was a series 1953), half-dollars, Ikes, Susies, and Sacagaweas all in one transaction. I used to have a decent amount of halves since I would get them from the bank and sort through them looking for old silver ones to sell.

Once I paid for something that was around $40 at Wal-Mart with a stack of previously unissued consecutively numbered $2s. The cashier thought it was counterfeit.

I have heard of folks who get the uncut sheets of $2s from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and use those to pay for stuff, cutting out bills as they need them. A sheet costs more to purchase than the bills are worth, but it's for the amusement factor. The most amusing story I've heard was someone who cut out the bills and made a "book" of bills with one perforated edge at the spine. He would tear out bills from the book to pay for things. I think he had to deal with the Secret Service once, who finally admitted that he did nothing illegal.

Fractional currency is still technically legal tender, and I have read of at least one person who would buy old ratty fractional currency bills (like 3 cent or 15 cent bills) on eBay for two or three dollars and then try to use them to buy stuff.
fallenpegasus From: fallenpegasus Date: November 21st, 2006 12:09 am (UTC) (Direct Link)
That "someone" was Woz, one of the co-founders of Apple Computer.
pdelahanty From: pdelahanty Date: November 20th, 2006 10:27 pm (UTC) (Direct Link)
"I'm sorry, sir. We don't accept Nixon dollars. Do you have any others?"

I never thought I'd see Richard M. Nixon in line to have his face on currency. Go figure.
zonereyrie From: zonereyrie Date: November 20th, 2006 10:31 pm (UTC) (Direct Link)
I'm looking forward to James K. Polk. :-)
roninspoon From: roninspoon Date: November 20th, 2006 10:48 pm (UTC) (Direct Link)
When I was in Europe last fall, I used the 1 and 2 Euro coins a lot. I liked them, it made it really easy to buy a sandwich from a street vendor.

I think the reason the Sacagawea coins failed so bad, at least one reason, is that the only place you used to regularly find them is in the change return for stamp machines. So you'd get a book of stamps, and end up with a huge pocket full of coins for the effort.
rbarclay From: rbarclay Date: November 20th, 2006 11:32 pm (UTC) (Direct Link)
As someone living in Europe, I have to add that I absolutely hate the EUR2-coin, and I certainly wouldn't complain if the EUR1-coin would get a bill companion.
The problem is that one always ends up with a full pocket /purseof coins, some of which are actually worth something, and the sorting-through takes time. Bills, OTOH, are easily sorted as soon as one gets them. And then there's the problem with people who keep their purse in their back pocket and then sit on a hard surface. Ouch! Life in this regard was much easier when we didn't have the Euro.
pfloyd From: pfloyd Date: November 20th, 2006 10:49 pm (UTC) (Direct Link)
In addition to the stripper comment above...
They'd have to wear garters with coin purses attached now...
And how would they pick up the coin with their cleavage? Not as fun to watch.
cyber_pagan From: cyber_pagan Date: November 21st, 2006 06:02 pm (UTC) (Direct Link)
they would use their 'other' cleavage of course :) And that would be very fun to watch!
wedgex From: wedgex Date: November 20th, 2006 11:00 pm (UTC) (Direct Link)
I loved the one pound coins when I was in England. They were perfectly differet from every other coin, made them super-easy to use. Doing something similar here, though, would mean re-engineering every vending machine in the country, since none of them would accept a double-wide coin. Pity.
dasubergeek From: dasubergeek Date: November 20th, 2006 11:50 pm (UTC) (Direct Link)
The big problem with the £1 coin, at least from the government's point of view, is that the seigniorage (the amount of money the government makes between the cost of the coin and the face value for which the coin is traded) goes way down -- they can't be processed automatically, as they can't be rolled, only bagged.
emurphy42 From: emurphy42 Date: November 20th, 2006 11:05 pm (UTC) (Direct Link)
Snopes has a similar story, which in turn links to a bunch of others (one of which also hails from WPI).
zonereyrie From: zonereyrie Date: November 20th, 2006 11:12 pm (UTC) (Direct Link)
Yeah, I've seen that before because people pointed me to it after I told my tale. I'm sure it has happened to many people. :-)
7threality From: 7threality Date: November 20th, 2006 11:09 pm (UTC) (Direct Link)
And the reason they don't stop producing the $1 bills is because of jobs. They'd have to lay off the workers that do the $1 bills and that's just bad politics, despite the fact that it would save the government money in the long run (coins are cheaper to produce, and require less workers).

I used to have a link to an article, I'm too lazy to go look for it.
From: yamazakikun Date: November 21st, 2006 01:33 am (UTC) (Direct Link)
Specifically, it's about jobs in Dalton, Massachusetts. Which is represented by Senators Kerry and Kennedy, both of whom are extremely senior senators precisely because they're good at bringing home the bacon.
blarglefiend From: blarglefiend Date: November 20th, 2006 11:14 pm (UTC) (Direct Link)
We've had one and two dollar coins in Australia for years. I have vague memories of the paper notes but they were phased out when I was young enough that coins just seem "normal" to me.

I believe they did the $1 first, had both in circulation for a while with a definite end-date for the notes. You could still take the notes to a bank to exchange them, but they wouldn't be legal tender any more. Same for $2 a few years later.

The coins are gold-coloured and differently-shaped/sized to all the others with different milling. It's dead easy to identify any of our coins by touch. Even our notes are less troublesome in that regard than yours -- they're all different sizes and colours. And they all have at least one woman on them. ;)

On my couple of trips to the US I found the currency a bit confusing. The notes all seemed identical and you wind up with a huge wad of the things just from change. It wasn't just "new money" confusion -- no such problem with Canadian or Hong Kong dollars.
dasubergeek From: dasubergeek Date: November 21st, 2006 12:04 am (UTC) (Direct Link)
Well, I agree with you olmost completely, except that I can think of at least two examples where the unit bill and the unit coin coexist happily -- Scotland and Hong Kong. Scotland still has a £1 bill (not legal tender in England but usually accepted, at least in Scottish border areas) and the more usual £1 coin. Hong Kong has both a $10 bill and a $10 coin and they're both completely in use -- which one you get depends on what the cashier has in the drawer.

One problem I have with much of the world is a superfluity of coins -- Europe, for example (€0.01, €0.02, €0.05, €0.10, €0.20, €0.50, €1, €2), has eight coins, which is too much.

The US has four in common circulation (1c, 5c, 10c, 25c) and is trying to add a fifth, which is plenty. I hate dollar bills for so many reasons -- they fill up my wallet, making it uncomfortable to sit down, they get wrinkled and don't go into vending machines (and I renew my call for an Octopus card-like object in the US), and they get torn and filthy too easily.

I'd be OK with bringing the $2 bill back into circulation, but I'd rather lose the penny and the $1 bill.
From: dirkcjelli Date: November 21st, 2006 01:56 am (UTC) (Direct Link)
Care to explain the Octopus Card to folk who haven't been (or talked with someone who visited) Hong Kong?
fallenpegasus From: fallenpegasus Date: November 21st, 2006 12:07 am (UTC) (Direct Link)
There's a problem with "just stop making one dollar bills". Well, two problems actually. One is that bills and coins are made by different gov't orgs, and they're not closely coordinated.

The second one is, even if the BPE just stopped printing dollar notes, and even if the mint went all out, and devoted their entire capacity towards doing nothing but minting dollar coins, there is no way they could mint the coins as fast as the bills would wear out. There would be this big "notch" in supply where there would be a crying shortage of one dollar "money things" of either type.

The approach that the mint has been taking is they have one press that runs on a normal duty cycle, not "all out", that constantly turns out dollar coins. They will just slowly push the bills out over a couple of decades.
zonereyrie From: zonereyrie Date: November 21st, 2006 12:15 am (UTC) (Direct Link)
Well, when I said 'stop making' I didn't mean just throw the switch. I was giving them some credit and presuming there would be a phase-out, not just cold turkey. :-) Mint more coins, make fewer bills. The more coins are in circulation, the fewer replacement bills they print, until they stop.
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