Has it really been 33 years since the failed introduction of the Susan B. Anthony dollar?
For me it seems like yesterday.
But that failure to make Americans accept and use the coin just keeps echoing down through the years.
Yesterday I had a telephone call from someone who simply said he had a coin with an eagle on each side. "It says, 'One Dollar' and has no date," he added.
That’s all the information he gave me.
It sounded like a magician’s coin where two genuine coins are taken and cut apart and one reverse is affixed to the other with the seam running along the raised edge to disguise it.
But we talked less about what it might be and more about the eagle. I asked him to describe it. He said the eagle’s head was turned left.
Now the Morgan dollar eagle’s head turns left and the eagle on the reverse of the Ike and the Anthony dollar face left.
I asked him if it was the eagle landing on the moon design. He had no idea what I was talking about. By his voice I judged him to be my age or older. I had figured he might remember the design from the Ike dollar and the Anthony that marked Apollo 11’s landing on the moon in 1969.
The caller just couldn’t come up with any words to describe what he was seeing and he repeated several times that the coin had no date on it.
I asked him what size the coin was.
Bingo. He said it was a little bigger than a quarter, but for some reason had not thought to mention that fact until I asked him a direct question.
Now that could be because he knows dollar coins of no other size, or has never seen a dollar coin in the first place and did not have another coin or any experience to compare it to.
I lean to the latter explanation because nothing he said indicated that he was comparing it to any other of what back in 1979 we used to call “mini-dollars.”
People I talk with will say of a cent, nickel, dime or quarter they have questions about that it is just like others except for the characteristic they are questioning. They have a personal context.
For this caller, the two eagles apparently were not the only novel aspect. He didn’t seem to have any personal experience of other dollar coins to which to make comparisons.
To how many other Americans do dollar coins remain such a mystery?