Wednesday, February 8, 2017

an end to presidential dollars

So, I've been collecting the presidential dollars ever since the series debued ten years ago, picking up each new coin as it appeared and carrying it in my back pocket* until the next one came out, whereupon I retired the old president and replaced it with the new. The series has now come to an end --not because they've run out of presidents but because it's illegal in the U. S. to put a living person on a coin. Thus the Reagan dollar is the last of the series, and there are no coins for Carter, Bush, Clinton, W. Bush, or Obama (and of course no Trump).

As both a history buff and former coin collector, I really liked what they did with these coins, but their failure to get into circulation shows that there's really no point in trying to have a US dollar coin. I've seen four such attempts in my time. The Eisenhower dollar failed (too large, picked a no-longer-that-popular president to honor, ugly design**). The Susan B. Anthony dollar failed (looked too much like a quarter, picked a figure who didn't have much mythic resonance at the time, ugly design***). The Sacagawea dollar did everything right (popular figure, good design, distinctive color to distinguish it from any other coin) and still failed. And the presidential dollar coins, despite getting a fair amount of attention early on, failed so badly the mint stopped mass-producing them for circulation mid-way through. Part of the problem might be that our presidents are a mixed bag, and most of us have mixed feelings about them (at least, those of us who know much about them). I know I didn't much like carrying around a Hoover or a Nixon dollar, and I'll be glad not to have the Reagan one in my pocket anymore.

And so ends another attempt to introduce something new (a dollar coin) without taking away something old (the dollar bill).  The English succeeded with their pound coin (and now additionally with their two-pound coin) by taking the pound-note out of circulation at the time they launched the coin, and by making the coin distinctive is size, color (colour), and shape (it was much thicker than their other coins).

I wonder what we'll try next time.

--John R.

*(along with  the Sacagawea I've been carrying since 2000 and a 1907 indian head penny)

**except for the back, which was superb

***again, except for its back -- which was the exact same back as the Eisenhower


Trotter said...

Unfortunately the UK pound coin appears quite easy to forge, and it is estimated that about 1 in 10 (30 million in total are fakes). The problem is so bad that the coin is being scrapped this year and a replacement, much harder to fake coin is being introduced. I wondered whether the possibility of fake one dollar coins means that they did not catch on with the US Mint.

John Hancock said...

Australia introduced the one and two dollar coin so long ago as it is lost in the mists of time. There was never any problem here and except for some troglodytes there was merely a murmur of protest.