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Opinions arrive regularly like bond interest

Numismatic News editor lauds readers' efforts to exercise their right to free speech.

I am rarely bored. Readers see to that. They always have something to write about. I enjoy discovering what they are thinking. That is probably why I earn my living this way and why the Letters and Viewpoint columns fills up with interesting opinions each week.

Naturally, I do not share all of the opinions. I couldn?t possibly. Nobody could. Some directly contradict others. However, if you allow readers to interact with each other, a large degree of consensus seems to emerge over time. Some topics, though, never seem to reach such a consensus.

Those letters are like bonds that pay regular interest. I can count on them. I don?t have to seek them out. They appear at regular intervals. As a newspaper editor, I am the richer for them. Readers are always interested in them.

One such topic is the call to abolish the $1 bill. Once that topic is raised, I can count on the response from those who oppose it. This has been going on since I settled in my desk here for the first time in 1978. Then, of course, the hobby was excited about the possibility of a new and smaller dollar coin.

It was authorized that autumn. We got Susan B. Anthony as the design and a size that was not much bigger than a quarter. It was dubbed the mini-dollar.
Unfortunately, over time, ?mini? almost became more descriptive of the level of interest in the coin by the general public than of the coin?s size.

Collectors, of course, had suggestions. We just needed to spend them and get the public used to them. I tried it. How much hostility are you willing to put up with? Handing something to a cashier that the cashier does not recognize as money does not endear you to the people behind you in line. I learned that the hard way. That burst of curiosity the first time quickly gave way to the silently expressed, ?Why are you holding up the line?? I learned fast. Like baseball, I figured three strikes and you?re out. I gave up.

That pretty well summed up the history of the Anthony coin. Three years and it was done. 18 years later we got a last hurrah, which allowed me to write about the parallels to the Morgan series? final coinage. The interruption for the Anthony series was 18 years. For the Morgan series, it was 17.

In the case of the Morgan dollar, a new design followed in the form of the Peace dollar. After Anthony came the Sacagawea golden dollar.

Back in 1921 they were striking silver dollars to make up for the 270 million melted in 1918 to get silver for India. Americans didn?t like to use those new coins either, but the government at least had a justification in that the new coins were used to back Silver Certificates. The paper money was used by the public. The silver coins sat. It worked out for the economy as the people got what they preferred to use.

We don?t have the option of striking Sac dollars to back Federal Reserve Notes. It is unnecessary. This, of course, helps feed the logic of abolition. The convenience issue is unchanged from 1921. The vast majority of people prefer paper.

Will this always be so? Possibly. However, since we can count on inflation to continue, someday conditions might change to a degree that majority opinion changes. If that should occur, it is my belief that the opinion shift will have been telegraphed ahead of time by letters to the editor. I hope my future successors will appreciate the expressions of opinion as much as I do.

This opinion shift is something sponsors of the Presidential $1 Coin Act are hoping to inspire. If four designs are struck each year, it is hoped that enough public interest will be generated to see some dollar coins used in commerce.
The downside is this may not occur. Backers of the legislation will then simply point to all the money the government generated in seigniorage. Any dollar coin held by a collector is like a permanent $1 loan to the government.

With the deficit as large as it is, the government needs all the $1 loans it can find. It basically wins no matter how the public reacts. That may be why it is now the law of the land.