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Attachment to paper more than myth

2014 U.S. Coin Digest

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The Citizens Against Government Waste issued a 25-page report July 22 called “Time for Change: Modernizing to the Dollar Coin Saves Taxpayers Billions.”

The point of the report is to persuade Congress that abolishing the $1 bill and replacing it with a $1 coin will save the government and hence taxpayers, $13.8 billion over 30 years.

Even in this day and age with a national debt of almost $16 trillion, the figure $13.8 billion is a large one.

However, despite a big number like that serving as justification for change, it is going to be a virtually impossible case to make to the American people.

I don’t even think you could persuade a majority of Americans to support the change if you offered to pay them in cash their share of the $13.8 billion. It works out to less than $45 a person, or something under $180 per family of four over 30 years.

Would you change your opinion about abolishing the $1 bill one way or the other if you were paid $45 to do so? No? I didn’t think you would.

Now I know that belittling large numbers by breaking them down this way could justify never attempting to save money on anything, ever and that offends my lifelong habit of being fairly tight with a dollar. (The coin hobby trained me well.)

However, the lobby group does a little belittling of its own when it deals with what it calls the myth that “Americans don’t want dollar coins.”

I am sure most of the readership of Numismatic News would likely say that the antipathy of the public to dollar coins is more than just a myth.

But the report says, “If this were true, the logic should also hold that people would always have wanted the value of one dollar as a note and not as a coin. Thus, one would have expected a strong ‘paper quarter’ movement in the 1960s and 1970s when the quarter was worth well over a dollar today.”

What an interesting straw man to construct and knock down, ignoring the historical fact that the silver dollar was abolished in 1873 and the dollar coin lobby of the time brought it back in Morgan form in 1878. The federal government then had to issue Silver Certificates because people didn’t want to use the silver dollars, so they became backing for paper money. Gold coins also basically sat in vaults while most Americans happily used paper money for the convenience.

Since the inflation of the Civil War ended, Americans have shown a marked preference for paper money even if they did not demand paper quarters, which they had had during the Civil War, by the way, and hated.

None of this means that there isn’t some logic to the case of using a dollar coin. It has worked in other countries, like Canada.

But calling Americans’ reluctance to use a dollar coin a myth is severely understating the attachment average people have to the paper dollar. For most, it is one of the few things that seem unchanging and reassuring in a tumultuous world.

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