Presidental Dollar Coins have the Edge

One of the many viral emails consuming bandwidth these days is an erroneous little diatribe that claims that the new presidential dollar coins have omitted our nation’s motto, the words “In God We Trust”. The email includes the normal pablum of fake outrage, inaccurate facts, and a call to boycott.

It is likely that you have seen it, but for those who have not check out the Snopes.com debunking of this flawed meme.

The fact is that not only is “In God We Trust” still on the coin, its placement is likely to draw more notice to it than if it had been merely placed on the face of the coin. Where is the motto? It is on the third side of the coin; the edge. To make room for better portraits of the presidents on the face of the coins (and the reverse side’s image of the Statue of Liberty) Congress ordered the US Mint to move the motto “In God We Trust”, the phrase “E Plurbus Unum” and the year of issue to incuse lettering on the edge of the coin where it becomes very noticeable. The last coin to have incuse lettering on the edge (E Plurbus Unum) was the $20 gold coin minted from 1907 until 1933. Before that, it was used on many denominations including the earliest one cent coins which had the words “one hundred for a dollar” stamped into the edge. The placing of words, ivy vines and the now common reeding on the edges of coins was a way to limit scalawags from shaving off bits of gold and silver from the edges of the coins back when coins were made from more than copper and nickel alloys. The basic truth of the matter is that the edges of the coins are very noticeable. The smooth edge of a Sacagawea dollar helps us tactilely differentiate them from quarter dollar coins.

So, with the truth being so obvious, how on earth did this viral email get started?

I have a conspiracy theory.

There is a strong push to keep the paper dollar in circulation even though a dollar coin makes more sense in both consumer spending trends and in tax dollar savings.

Inflation has risen to the point where a dollar pays for less than a quarter dollar did only twenty years ago (82% inflation). Think back to your life twenty years ago. Would you have wanted a paper quarter dollar bill? Because the dollar bill is being used as as frequently as a quarter dollar was 20 years ago, they wear out in less than a year. Because they wear out so fast, dollar bills are being printed at a rate faster than all other denominations combined. Coins take decades to wear out under normal usage. It costs the taxpayer more to be provided with fresh replacement paper money dollars than it would to be provided with sturdy durable metal coin dollars. So why are we still using a paper dollar? In a word: money.

My theory is that those who have a interest in keeping the paper dollar in circulation were afraid that the collectible commemorative presidential dollar coins would become as popular as the commemorative states quarter dollars have been. The paper that our nation’s paper money is printed on is big business for some very rich and politically powerful families.

This meme attacking the presidential dollar coins is not about religion at all. If it were the meme would call for us to contact our senators and representatives to change the law authorizing the presidential dollar coins and have the nation’s motto included on the face of the coin. But, no, this viral meme calls for a boycott. What this attack on the presidential dollar coin is about is simply politics and big business that want to keep a dollar coin out of circulation, and to keep raking in profits from all those dollar bills that wear out in mere months.

Well. It’s a theory.

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Procrastination Cessation …

Hello. I am a procrastinator. I sometimes can keep my head down and get things done, but over the last year I have really let a lot of things slip. I am going to rectify that.

I stumbled across an interesting meme here on the internet. It is called “101 Things to Do in 1001 Days“. The idea is to complete 101 preset tasks in a period of 1001 days. The tasks must be specific (i.e. no ambiguity in the wording) with a result that is either measurable or clearly defined. Tasks must also be realistic and stretching (i.e. represent some amount of work on my part). I realize that some of the tasks on my list may not seem to fit the requirements, but I think that even the most mundane ones will be stretching (and hopefully breaking) my procrastination. I like this meme because it gives focus like other “beating procrastination” exercises, but it also sets a time table that won’t cause panic or frustration. 1001 days is approximately 2.74059 years. That is a long time.

I am going to participate. But a lot can happen in 2 and three quarter years. Kids get married or graduate from college. There could be more grandkids. We could win the lottery. For this reason I am reserving the right to revise this list based on a major life event. I mean, if I win the lottery then fixing the van is not a stretching task anymore, right. A stretching task to replace the van task would be setting up trust funds for loved ones, or building them houses.

My list of 101 Things can be found on the sidebar as a sub-page under “About Me.” It contains such mundane things as taking care of all the broken door knobs in our house, and using and returning a power washer I borrowed from a friend over a year ago. It contains necessary things like doing my back exercises and and cleaning up my pack-rat messes (I am a hoarder of useless things. It’s genetic.) The task list has a few hard things like learning to read music (which I have failed at before), and important things like working with my parents and sister on formalizing the ownership of the family farm to protect it from seizure should my parents’ medical costs spiral out of control. It also has fun things for me, like going on a “get away” with just Doris (beach, cabin in the woods; something we have talked about for years), and reading all the Hugo Award winning novels that I have not yet read.

I took me the better part of a week to create the list. I strove hard to keep all the tasks realistic and important, even the fun ones. Don’t wish me luck, tell me “It’s about time!”

Overview: Central States Numismatic Society

I am a hobby numismatist. I also delve into exonumia. Which are just the technical terms for coin collecting and “things that look like money, but aren’t” collecting (tokens, medals and the like). This is probably my most laid back hobby, and provides me with the calming zen-ish relaxation that I need from time to time. I don’t spend a lot of money this hobby.

It seems like I have spent less money on coins these past few years than I have on my membership to coin clubs. I dumped the national American Numismatic Association a few years back because of some decisions they made that were not good for the membership nor the hobby in general. Not wanting to totally distance myself from the hobby, I hooked up with the regional club that includes the state of Ohio, the Central States Numismatic Society (CSNS).

I am glad I did. The quarterly publication, The Centinal, does a fantastic job of keeping me updated on show dates and happenings within the hobby. From time to time the annual CSNS coin show is held in Ohio, primarily in Columbus or Cincinnati. I really like walking around the bourse, the fancy name numismatists call the vendors room, and looking at all the coins that are out of my price range. I have purchased a few coins, but not many.

I have two different collections that I am attempting to finish. The first is United States one cent coins. This is the collection I started as a kid and most of it are made up of coins that I pulled out of circulation. I am now filling in the holes by buying cents that visually match those well circulated coins of my childhood. Most vendors only bring high end, high priced, minimal wear and tear coins to these shows. It has been difficult to put together this low end matching set.

The other collection I started around 1996. It is a collection that is going to include an interesting coin, token or medal that was minted during the birth year of my ancestors. It ties into one of my other hobbies, genealogy.

I have promised myself that I will get to some of the smaller coin shows here in Ohio and in northern Kentucky. I am hoping that the dealers at these shows will be smaller and have a better selection of lower priced coins. Thanks to the CSNS, when I finally get around to actually doing this, I’ll know exactly where to go.

Spare Change?

When you pay for something with cash, what do you do with the change? Do you keep it and spend it? Do you toss it all into a jar or other hoarding place? Do you drop all your spare coins in a charity bucket? What about the pennies? Do you hoard them or just drop them on the ground? Do you spend dollar bills as soon as you get them, or only when you have five, ten or more? Do you avoid using cash as much as possible, and use electronic payments? When was the last time you paid cash for something and paid with the exact change?

I don’t want your answers to these questions, but I did want you to have them in mind before I continued. I have found that most people have strong opinions about cash that really do not match their behavior when they actually use it.

What is spare change? I define it as that change that we don’t pay much attention to. The change we are willing to give away or let pile up. For some, that means pennies, for others it means any coins and can even include dollar bills. Most of us fall in between, although there are some people out there that still dig into a change purse or pocket to make exact change whenever possible.

Let’s focus on the penny, or the one cent coin as it is officially called here in the United States. The majority of people do not spend them. Many get rid of them as soon as possible by putting them to a charity donation receptacle or by dropping them in one of those “leave one- take one” dishes at the cash register. Some people take hoarded pennies to the bank and convert them to paper money or deposit them and others are willing to pay around ten percent of the total value of their change to let those counting machines in stores convert them. One of the worst things that happens to cents is that they are merely hoarded in cans, jars, buckets and barrels forever. Even worse, some people get rid of them by discarding them on the ground when they leave the store.

I hoard pennies for a while. Then I get on a kick where I look through them looking for collectible ones, mainly striking errors or the rarer of the wheat pennies. After that, it is back to the bank with them.

Think about how you deal with spare pennies. If you are a hoarder, you are the last stop of the penny’s journey. Now think about how that penny got into your hand. The cashier had to get it from the bank. If you are the type that returns cents to the bank or to a business that converts them into bills, then through your efforts, these coins circulate between the bank, the store, you, and back to the bank. Not as efficient as pennies that are spent at stores, but it is still circulation. Do you look at your change? Have you noticed that more and more new shiny pennies are showing up in your change? The US Mint has to make billions of cents each year just to keep up with the demand because billions of cents are being hoarded each year. At 8,234,000,000 coins, more cents were minted in 2006 than all the other denomination of coins combined. Big Deal, right? Well consider this. It costs more than a penny to make a penny. True! It is right there the US Mint’s Annual Report for 2006. It costs the government 1.21 cents to manufacture and distribute each penny. This represents a loss to the taxpayer of over 17.29 million dollars.

So, tell me; why are we still using the penny? Most people do not circulate them. Many people throw or give them away.

A solution has been presented in congress several times over the years, but each time it goes nowhere. We need to eliminate the manufacturing of the one cent coin and make it legal to round the final cash purchase price (all items tallied, all taxes calculated and added in) to the nearest nickel. Electronic purchases would still be calculated to the cent. The shelf price of items would still be to the cent. Nothing would change, prices for goods would not rise. We already round the final price of gasoline up or down from the mil (one tenth of a cent), rounding to the nearest nickel for cash purchases is just a progression of the same mechanism. *Rounding means that a final total, after taxes, that ends with 1, 2, 6 or 7 would round down to the previous 0 or 5, and 3, 4, 8 or 9 would round up to the next 0 or 5.* At most you would pay or save an extra two cents per transaction. Over time this rounding will balance out. The banks would send all the pennies back to the mint where they can be made into nickels or golden dollars. (FYI, our nickel coin is 75% copper and only 25% nickel)

You would think that people who routinely hoard, give away or throw away up to four cents per transaction would not complain about this rounding. But for some reason nearly everyone I discuss this with gets upset at the idea of eliminating the penny. It must be a comfort thing.

We can do this. We have done it before. From 1793 until 1857 the USA minted and used half-cents. They were eliminated without the economy crashing, or poor people starving, or charities suffering. And the perfect time to do this is fast approaching. 2008 will be the 100th year that Abraham Lincoln has been on our cent. I say we issue a series of commemorative one cent coins next year celebrating Lincoln and all the previous artistic designs that have adorned our penny, and then in 2009 we can just stop making them.

Pennies are spare change. We can dispense with them. We can do without them. We don’t need them. They are spare money.

And they cost too much!