By William Tuttle
In a recent “Viewpoint” by Michael Reczkowski appearing in the Oct. 8 issue of Numismatic News, there is comment about compromise on the dollar and cent. I agree with Mr. Reczkowski that the dollar bill and cent should be discontinued and demonetized.
The cent should be discontinued permanently, as it has no real “buying power” as a single coin. There are billions – perhaps quadrillions – of cents currently in circulation, we don’t need any more produced. There are so many cents in circulation that people literally throw them away.
Like Canada and other countries, who have either discontinued or are thinking about discontinuing their “cents,” the physical coin in the U.S.’s production line should be discontinued. Like the mil (1/100th of a dollar), the cent should be relegated to the “virtual world” (electronic bookkeeping). Mr. Lincoln can “retire” from the cent. After all, he’s been there for 100-plus years. He’s still on the $5 bill (for 80-plus years) anyway!
Ever since its beginning, the Presidential dollar program has been pretty much a failure, as the coins are rarely seen in public use because of the “convenience” of the dollar bill. (A few large city transit systems are the exception when getting change for $5 or more at some stations.)
Even the Sac dollar has failed (both as the Native American Heritage and regular issues) for the same reason. There are millions of these golden dollars stashed in various federal vaults around the U.S. just waiting to be released and used other than in some South American countries who think our soaring eagle on the reverse is a condor. I disagree that Sacagawea should be replaced by Lincoln (Victor D. Brenner’s design) in 2017, but rather keep the current original Sac design. If the government wants to continue the Native American Heritage design, let them mint a $2.50 bimetallic coin like the Canadian $2. The inner hub could be the golden dollar composition, while the outer ring could possibly be a zinc-cupronickel sandwich composition, as all the coins from 5 cents (half dime) to 50 cents would be made in the future. Surely this change would make the Jarden Zinc people happy.
Now, I just mentioned the 5-cent coin as a half dime, not a nickel as we all commonly call the 5-cent coin now. That is because in the first few decades of our currency’s existence, the 5-cent coin was called the half disme, or half dime. This coin was made of the same silver content as the other silver coins of higher value. The early half dimes were also half the size of the dime. It became the nickel in the 1870s probably because the silver half dime was worth more in melt than its face value. Now that it costs more in production than its face value, perhaps it’s time to revert back to the half dime. Produce the new 5-cent coin in the same composition as the coins of higher value (10 through 50 cents), or just the new half dime (it can still have the value “5 Cents” on the coin) with the zinc-cored cupronickel planchet that is half the size as the current dime.
As for eliminating the dollar bill as well as the $2 bill, that is long overdue. The Crane Paper Company, which has a monopoly in their paper money product to the government, should be aware that their time is nearing its end as far as paper currency goes. More and more countries of the world are turning to polymer notes for their currency material of choice. If they wish to keep their monopoly of supplying the government with currency material, perhaps Crane Paper should develop a polymer material for bills $5 and up. Wait a minute! Weren’t monopolies (Standard Oil, Carnegie Steel, to name a few) outlawed and broken up in the early 1900s? Perhaps there should be some competition in that field as well. Competition in supplying the government paper or plastic for its currencies is one way to stimulate the economy.
Earlier I mentioned briefly the creation of a bimetallic $2.50 coin like Canada’s “Toonie” $2 coin. The government could continue the Native American Heritage program on that coin. Each year feature a prominent American Native (excluding Sacagawea, who is already on the dollar coin) on the obverse (including Red Cloud, Sitting Bull and Geronimo) with a varying symbol of the native culture, as started on the golden dollar a few years back, on the reverse. When it comes to the Code Talkers of WWII, the government could place a portrait of one of the Talkers who was killed in action.
Of course these changes will require a renovation of the current machines that handle our money, and there might end up being some “losers” who can’t handle the change. But it would be one way to have a few winners in creating new machines (stimulating the economy) for the new coins and bills when that change comes.
This “Viewpoint” was written by William B. Tuttle of Cleveland, Ohio.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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