Yesterday driving home from work, three quarters that I had received as change at lunch started out in my pocket, but slid out and deposited themselves on the car seat during the short trip. I noticed them and retrieved them after a moment’s irritation as I got out of the car at home.
This is not the first time it has happened to me. In fact it had happened just the day before.
Most days I go to great lengths not to have coins in my pocket. When I arrive here at work, my car keys and any coins that I have are placed on a bookshelf behind my chair. When it is time to go, I grab the keys and the coins and head out the door. Usually I can make it to where I am going without them leaving my pocket, but the experience of the last two days is far from unique.
I am not alone. Men across America have this experience over and over again.
Is it any wonder that dollar coins despite the Mint’s efforts to get us to use them remain largely unused and are considered to be inferior to the $1 bill that gets tucked into a wallet?
It is the “pants pocket effect” that keeps coins of higher denominations from being used in the United States. Intellectually, I know that buying a three-euro breakfast at McDonald’s in Berlin is easily paid for with coins. I did this multiple times just for the experience of it.
What I did not do was to keep the euro coins in my pocket all day. In the morning, I took just enough coins to pay for my breakfast off the hotel room desk. Any change I might have received was put on the desk as swiftly as possible.I know my pants pockets are no more secure in Europe than they are in the United States.
Should the U.S. Mint just give up trying to circulate the dollar? The answer is probably yes, but it won’t. The Congress doesn’t want to see the dollar coin disappear. There is still a lot of profit from seigniorage to be gained. Any coin that is issued is like a check written by the government that is never cashed. The float helps keep the government afloat financially.
It does not matter what the intellectual case for dollar coin use might be. I know intellectually that the dollar coin of 2009 actually is worth less than the quarter dollar coin of 1968. I had no objection to the quarter in 1968, so why should I object to the same amount of purchasing power being put in coin form in 2009?
Intellectually, I shouldn’t object.
But my pants pocket makes me feel differently.
The Mint is making a game effort to promote dollar coin use.
Reader Z. Vesely sent me a clipping of an ad in The Oregonian. In it the Mint announced times and locations in the vicinity of Portland where people could swap paper money for $1 coins.
I hope it was successful, but the thing that made me laugh is that the ad proclaimed coins to be 100 percent recyclable, they last decades and save the government money. That is all true. I can’t argue against those points intellectually.
However, the “pants pocket effect” makes the argument against the dollar coin for me and it is almost literally a “seat of the pants” argument.