U.S. $1 Coins
Posted by bitguru on February 22, 2007
I got my hands on a few of the new presidential $1 coins today. I hope they are more successful than its predecessors have been, but I don’t see it happening.
I think it is dumb that one must whip out bills to pay for inexpensive things such as a magazine or the daily Starbucks fix. That makes me one of only a handful of U.S. citizens who think the dollar coin is a good idea, but more on that later. First let’s take a look at the coin.
I like it. I’m not sure we needed George Washington’s head on another coin, but that will change in three months. I don’t think “E Pluribus Unum” and “In God We Trust” really belong on coins, and placing these (along with the year and mint mark) onto the edge of the coin leaves the faces of the coin pleasantly uncrowded. Reducing ONE DOLLAR to $1 and the omitting LIBERTY contribute to this also. Compare with the heads side of the statehood quarters, which was intentionally crowded to allow some freedom in the tails designs.
The lettering on the edge is harder to read than I had expected, and I suspect the way the Statue of Liberty twice overhangs the concentric circle may soon become dated. I’m not wild about the designer’s monogram (“JFM” for Joseph Menna) in Washington’s neck, but perhaps I just haven’t noticed this in other coins. Overall though, the design is a winner.
from left to right: presidential dollar heads, presidential dollar tails, Sacagawea dollar, Anthony dollar, quarter, coin edges (from bottom to top: Sacagawea, presidential, Anthony, another Sacagawea, quarter). Click to enlarge, and click again if using Firefox.
I am not a fan of the Anthony dollar. The inscribed hendecagon is cool but the coin looks too much like a quarter, especially from the edge. Research has shown that any society can learn easily to distinguish any two coins within a generation, and in fact I don’t have too much trouble telling them apart, but alas many cashiers do.
The Sacagawea dollar, with its brass color and smooth edge, is easily distinguishable from a quarter even though it is the same size and weight as the Anthony. I like the coin and try to keep a few in my pocket. The problem is that after the initial introduction they became difficult to obtain. The only way I could get them from my bank was to order a $1000 box of mixed rolls of Sacagawea and Anthony coins.
Now how many people (besides me, and I went in 50/50 with my father) are going to be willing to do that? That’s a lot of cash to outlay, and almost a third of the coins will be of the insufferable Anthony variety. It may not have done any better on its own, but by making the Sacagawea dollar only available mixed with the unsuccessful Anthony, the U.S. Mint bound their fates together.
It seems that this will be less of problem for the new dollar coins. The Fed will allow banks to order unmixed coins for a six-week period for each presidential design. Since new designs will arrive every three months, they should be at least 50% available through 2016.
Will they catch on with the general public? The experts say not unless the paper dollar bill is retired, which would be an extremely unpopular move. In some ways, it’s too late for the dollar coin. Vending machines now have bill receivers, toll roads now have E-ZPass, casino slot machines now use dollar slugs, and mass-transit systems now use stored-value cards, as do places like Kinko’s.
Last week the New York Times reported that the U.S. dollar bill has the lowest buying power of any circulating bill in the world. I remember that not too long ago Iraqis were buying groceries with wheelbarrows of bills, so perhaps it’s not true, but the lowest bill in most countries is worth between $4 and $8. That sounds about right to me.
[Now that the NYT has changed its archive policy I can see that the actual article says, “The American dollar is now one of the smallest-value banknotes remaining in circulation in the world.” (emphasis added) I recommend the article.]