Though it may be temporary, cash is making a comeback of sorts on the heels of recent reports of massive data breaches at major retailers.
Debit and credit card information was stolen. Thieves can sell the data to other thieves who will try to bilk the accounts for all of the money they can.
News reports indicate that some individuals are feeling threatened by these thefts and are reverting to cash payments where they can.
The events of recent months probably won’t delay the ascendancy of electronic payment mechanisms if data thefts of this kind are limited.
However, if they become a routine thing, if online security cannot be ramped up enough to prevent huge data breaches, then we will live in a different world entirely.
No one can know how the future will evolve. However, one thing occurs to me.
A recent weekly poll question at Numismatic News about reintroducing U.S. paper money denominations higher than the $100 bill elicited in some the now standard response that high denominations are used only by criminals. Therefore, we should not revive the $500 and $1,000 bills of days gone by.
The government, I am sure, is happy with this kind of response among collectors. It is a message it has been putting out to the public since the high denominations were retired in 1969. Collectors are propagating the message.
But what if the reputation of cash is made over into the white knight of people who are defending themselves against online data thieves?
What if the habits of the frugal neighbor of my parents who never used a checking account when I knew her, comes back into fashion?
She made her regular rounds to the phone company, the electric utility and city hall to pay the telephone bill, the power bill and the water bill, respectively, giving cash to them all.
She had nothing to hide. She simply grew up in another era.
The long-term decline of cash use may not be altered one iota, but it would be a good thing if those who use cash are considered to be intelligent people using an acceptable means of payment for their own good reasons.
That is probably an attitude from another age, like my parents’ now long deceased neighbor, but it is a much better one than equating all cash use to criminal activity.
Buzz blogger Dave Harper is winner of the 2013 Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper “Numismatic News.”