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Viewpoint: Small and cartoonish not wanted

By Jack Nugent

Our coins are a mockery of the world’s only superpower. Much to my chagrin, America has become a two-bit country.

Why does Canada have polymer currency and $2 coins? The Swiss have 5-franc coins and 1,000-franc notes. Europe has 2-euro coins with 500-euro notes. Even Mexico has a nice bi-metallic 20-peso coin. That our largest coin is the quarter is just short of appalling.

Not only that, but our quarter has not a millemeter of space wasted on it. It’s just too small to be that busy. Also, George Washington’s hair is over amplified and looks cartoonish.


The dime on the other hand remains beautiful and unchanged.

The dime on the other hand remains beautiful and unchanged. Not one hair on Franklin D. Roosevelt’s head has moved in 69 years. Even after the composition change and coin shortage, the relief and design elements remain untouched.

Unfortunately, the dime’s diginity can’t make up for what has been done to the nickel. The three-quarter portrait style caricature of our third President in bangs is in horrible taste. The Beatles looked good in bangs, not President Thomas Jefferson.

Equally appalling are the numerous changes to Abraham Lincoln’s portrait on the cent. The haircut and beard trim the Mint has given the President makes him look smaller than in past decades. The reduction in relief is also unnecessary and makes the coin look unimportant, which it is.

The size of the coin makes all the difference in its impression with the viewer. All this torture would end if we just changed our coinage base from a cent to a dime. Our business coins would then be the dime, half dollar, dollar, $2.50 and $5 pieces.

Coins being more commercially meaningful would gain respect. The same goes with our Federal Reserve Notes. Stop printing $1 and $5 notes and start printing $500 polymer currency.

As a country, I think we can do better.

This “Viewpoint” was written by Jack Nugent of Bisbee, Ariz.

Viewpoint is a forum for the expression of opinion on a variety of numismatic subjects.

To have your opinion considered for Viewpoint, write to David C. Harper, Editor, Numismatic News, 700 E. State St., Iola, WI 54990. Send email to david.harper@fwcommunity.com.

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News.
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One Response to Viewpoint: Small and cartoonish not wanted

  1. Munzen says:

    I agree that our current coinage is shameful – relief so low that images appear to be blurry ghosts, uninspired artwork, and more – but I’d like to suggest an alternative to the denominations proposed.

    As any collector knows, the quarter is a “compromise” coin whose denomination was selected for compatibility with Spanish milled dollars that were divided into eighths instead of tenths. As such, it violates the 1/2/5/10 ratios needed for a truly decimal coinage system. Moreover, because it’s an odd multiple of 5 it forces retention of the nickel in order to make change equitably.

    The quarter-eagle was similarly created as a quasi-Spanish, quasi-decimal coin. It’s one of the few mixed-denomination coins ever made, reminiscent of the former British half-crown (2s/6p) that was created to address anomalies in the cumbersome £/s/p system in use up till 1971.

    Other countries that have revised their coinage in recent years have almost universally adopted those 1/2/5/10 ratios, as seen in Australia, the UK, the EU, and New Zealand among others. Yes, it would be wrenching to institute a full revision of our coinage system and surely the “don’t ever change anything” crowd would have a field day, but other countries have done the same and more without ending civilization as we know it. Why should the US remain wedded to a coinage system that’s backward-compatible to pieces of eight?

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