This article was originally printed in the latest issue of Numismatic News.
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I am in total agreement about some things said in the “Letters” segment of the Nov. 9 issue of Numismatic News.
First is the politics issue. Like Mr. Mooningham, I too am tired of hearing people writing about what one president (or political person) did or caused in his/her lifetime and why they should/should not be portrayed on a coin.
They are on that coin/medal because the government feels that person had made some significant contribution to our history. In an earlier “Letters,” someone commented they would “leave the country” when (and if) Nixon is put on the Presidential dollar.” It’ll be a while before Nixon comes up, and this is what I have to say about that: “ If you don’t like it, don’t collect the coin/medal; that’s the beauty of this hobby – collect what you want and/or like.”
Second issue is the design and size issue brought up by several people. The government The Mint has nothing to say about coins. It follows orders from the Treasury Department, which is directed by both the House and Senate) should rethink the designs of all our money. One thing is to modernize our coin sizes. Except for the cent, the 5-cent piece (half dime), the dollar and the “high value” circulating gold coins (Quarter Eagle, Half Eagle, Eagle, and Double Eagle), the sizes of our coins have remained basically the same since their conception around the end of the 18th century (1700s). With the introduction of the decimal system to the English pound, England changed their coin sizes used since the 1600s. The “old” penny was the size of our half dollar, but is now about the size of a U.S./Canadian cent in its decimal system. As other British Commonwealth countries changed to a decimal pound (Australia and New Zealand changed over completely to the dollar system.), so did their coin sizes. As the euro was initiated at the turn of this century, most of the countries in the European Union dumped their coin sizes for the modern euro sizes.
Even Mexico has resized their coins to more like the Euro. Both Canada and the U.S. should, like the rest of the world, change the sizes of all their coins.
Perhaps the only country in the world that has “low denominated” paper money ($1, $2 and even $5 bills) now is the U.S. Several years ago, Canada demonetized their $1 and $2 bills, switching to coins in the same denomination (the $2 coin (“Twoney”) was introduced later than the $1 “Looney”). Mexico has also discontinued its “low denominated” paper pesos for coins, even going to the higher denominations, but still producing paper for them as well.
It’s simple and smart economics. A paper note may last only about a year, depending on its use in circulation. A coin can last for years in circulation and still be recognized as “that coin and denomination.” Though a paper bill may be less expensive to produce in the short-run, it will cost more in the long-run, as it needs to be more often than a metal coin. An old paper bill can only be destroyed; an old coin can be remelted into a new one. It is time the U.S. demonitize its paper $1, $2 and possibly $5 bills for coins.
However, before demonetizing the (at least) $1 and $2 bills, let us use them to commemorate the bicentennial of the War of 1812. The $1 bill could depict the “Star-Spangled Banner at Fort McHenry” in color. The $2 bill could depict “The Naval Battle on Lake Erie,” where Commodore Perry defeated the British. A third great commemorative bill should be the $20 FRN featuring General Andrew Jackson (who’s on the front as the President) and his troops defending New Orleans. Then demonitize the $1 and $2 bills, and possibly the $5 bill (Mr. Lincoln is on the cent anyway), after which bring back the Eagles of the 19th century ($2.50 Quarter Eagle, a bi-metallic coin similar to the Canadian “Twoney,” $5 Half Eagle, a bi-metallic coin with reverse rings of the Quarter Eagle, and a $10 coin – the Eagle – that is either 40 percent silver clad, copper-nickel clad, or solid copper-nickel.)
Yes, like the century before, there should be a national competition for all to redesign the new U.S. coins and FRNs, which shouldn’t be limited to just dead Presidents. After these long programs (America the Beautiful quarters, the Presidential dollars, Native American Heritage dollars) are over with our circulating money, let there be no more! (By the way, as of this date, I have not yet seen any “America the Beautiful” (National Parks) Quarters in circulation.)
The change for new money (no pun intended) can only happen when all of us numismatists speak out to our representatives (in both houses) and even the President for the modernization of the U.S. money.
This Viewpoint was written by Bill Tuttle, a hobbyist who is from Cleveland, Ohio.
Viewpoint is a forum for the expression of opinion. The opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of Numismatic News. To have your opinion considered for Viewpoint, write to David C. Harper, Editor, Numismatic News, 700 E. State St., Iola, WI 54990. Send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.