Skip to main content

Bullion coins will survive cashless push

The cashless society concept appears to be catching on worldwide. What is your long-range view for the total demise of coins and bank notes?


Coins and bank notes as we know them might but in my opinion are not likely to change or go away. Specie coinage will remain even if circulation currency doesn’t. Most people don’t realize it, but the American Eagle, Maple Leaf, Britannia, Philharmonic, and other bullion coin programs still being issued are true specie. The difference between these coins and circulation specie is that they have no true face value assigned to them, allowing them to be as fluid as is the market.

In your opinion is specie better than fiat money?

I favor an economy in which each is used. Yes, the value of our existing bullion American Eagle program changes continuously. Cash registers could be programmed to determine their value at the moment of a transaction, allowing these coins to function as true specie alongside our fiat cash system.

Were some 1931 quarters struck clandestinely at the U.S. Mint?

J.H. Cline acknowledged in Standing Liberty Quarters there were rumors of such coins in the Col. E.H.R. Green and King Farouk collections. If so, these coins didn’t make it to the auction block. Considering a 1913 Liberty Head nickel and 1933 double eagle did, why wouldn’t these? There are several 1931 newspaper reports of counterfeit quarters, but none of these reports acknowledge the date on these fakes.

The composition of our cent and nickel as well as that of the Canadian nickel were altered during World War II. What metals were considered as substitutes but rejected?

Don’t forget all the occupied countries whose coinages were composed of zinc while under Axis control. The US considered using aluminum, brass, bronze, fiber, glass, lead, manganese, plastic, rubber, white metal, zinc and zinc-coated steel during the war.

I understand there was a problem in Canada recently when due to the drop in the spot price of silver the face value of some of Canada’s commemorative silver coins exceeded their intrinsic value. Has this happened elsewhere?

It has happened previously in both Panama (gold $100 coins) and the British Virgin Islands (silver coins). In both cases the governments reneged, removing their legal tender status. Each was a one-sided deal, earning money for the government, but with no intention of honoring these coins as money.

Could the same thing happen in the United States?

Absolutely. The government hopes, of course, they set the bar high enough that the intrinsic value of its gold, silver, platinum, and palladium coins will never dip lower than the face value stamped onto these hunks of metal. It is total nonsense to believe any non-circulating legal tender coin anywhere could be redeemed for its face value in such a situation.

What about our copper-nickel composition commemorative coins? Would these be honored as legal tender if someone chose to spend them?

As unlikely as it appears someone would spend them, in theory they should be honored as money. Realistically, most bankers wouldn’t recognize them and for that reason would likely refuse them. Bankers who recognize them as being something real and different would likely redeem them, then buy them from their own cash drawer. If you have ever tried to spend a $2 bill, you know the reaction.

E-mail inquiries only. Do not send letters in the mail. Send to Because of space limitations, we are unable to publish all questions.

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News. >> Subscribe today.

• If you enjoy reading about what inspires coin designs, you'll want to check out Fascinating Facts, Mysteries & Myths about U.S. Coins.

• The Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1601-1700 is your guide to images, prices and information on coins from so long ago.