Inflation is a monetary phenomenon that seems to worry more and more people. Coin collectors are especially sensitive to it, which is why many have been buying as many silver American Eagles as they can in recent years.
But oddly, even as we are aware of it as something that has been occurring to varying degrees for our entire lives, we shield ourselves from the logical implications of what we ourselves are exposed to everyday.
American circulating coins are now next to useless.
There. I’ve written it. Imagine an editor of a coin collector newspaper even thinking such a thing.
I’ve nibbled around the edges in past years. I even wrote an editorial once urging the abolition of both the cent and the nickel. Start a new system of coinage, I said, with the dime at the bottom and work on up to say, $5 or $10. The logic was impeccable – then.
But are coins worth saving?
I ask that question because the answer seems plain as the nose on a 6-year-old’s face.
There I was at a familiar restaurant on Saturday. A family that also eats there was there as usual.
Mother was preparing the daughters to leave.
“Look what grandpa gave you. Two quarters. One for each of you.,” she said.
“Two quarters,” wailed one of the little girls. “That’s all? Two quarters?”
Mother was embarrassed.
That neatly sums up the current value of what everybody universally agrees is our most useful coin denomination.
As you know, it is all down hill from there for our opinions of the other denominations and their usefulness.
Even a 6-year-old knows what the problem with coins is without even knowing what inflation is.
She didn’t want a quarter even though her probably great-grandpa, a World War II veteran, meant to be kind.
If we don’t do something, that kid will not have coins in her future. Even if we do do something, can coins be saved?
We are hopelessly emotionally attached to little denominations that we do not use and will turn our noses up at the dollar, the one attempt to make our system useful with prices as high as they are.
I suppose I am proving how old I am when I recall when cents were used in parking meters. As I recall, that lowly coin bought 12 minutes of time when I became acquainted with it.
Nowadays, not only does the cent cost more than one cent for the Mint to produce but it would also cost any parking authority more than a cent to simply maintain a mechanism that would accept the coin.
I will miss it when it’s gone. That’s what collectors do. I might even be motivated to finish my set of Lincoln cents, buy that 1909-S VDB and revel in the knowledge that at long last I have reached the summit that envisioned as I sat with my Whitman albums back in the 1960s.
I still want to preserve the usefulness of coins, but the little girl says, “Too late.”