Over the years the US Federal Reserve has made numerous efforts to convince Americans to use a $1 coin instead of the $1 bill. The latest effort–the presidential $1 coin series–has resulted in over $1 billion dollars of coins nobody wants as the law calls for their production and a new president to be honored every few months regardless of popularity. These excess coins must be warehoused and guarded at great expense even though they may never be used. By the time the presidential coin series ends in 2016, the total amount is expected to exceed $2 billion.
The surplus of $1 billion in coins could theoretically reach from New Mexico to Chicago–a distance of 1,367 miles–when laid on their side. (Wouldn’t it be fun if kids started giving distances in presidential dollars? If you told a kid he had to walk to school a mile away he could answer: “Aww, man! That’s almost 61,000 James Buchanans from here!”)
Before we get too angry at the officials responsible for this seemingly wasteful coin series, remember the government made $4.6 billion from the state quarters program as collectors removed these coins from circulation. (Although, the American people didn’t really get any richer since the government made that $4.6b off Americans, and in a way this could be viewed as a tax on grandfathers.)
I think the difference between the state quarters and the presidential dollars is that many people are fans of their own home state but very few are fans of Rutherford B. Hayes. How many Californians are there? About 37 million. How many Rutherford B. Hayes fans are there? My guess is fifteen–all likely to be either descendants or people with the unfortunate name “Rutherford”.
All presidents, regardless of popularity, effectiveness, ethical handicaps, or handsomeness will be honored as long as they have been deceased for at least two years before the program’s end in 2016. This deadline is probably viewed with mixed emotions by ex-presidents Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush who will both turn 90 in their deadline year of 2014. What a tragedy for either of these ex-presidents to die in 2015 when neither are likely to win coin immortality under any other circumstances.
For years the government has strategized ways to encourage Americans to give up their preference for the $1 bill in favor of a $1 coin. The advantages include:
1. The $1 bill deteriorates and must be replaced every few years while the coin can last four decades.
2. The private sector such as banks, businesses, and mass transit would save money on processing coins over bills.
3. The exotic dancer lobby hopes the elimination of the $1 bill will force patrons to move up to the $5 bill as the lowest possible denomination wad of bills you can throw in the air to act like a high roller while shouting, “I’m makin’ it rain bills, ya’ll!” (It doesn’t seem right that one man can toss two $1 bills in the air and claim to be making it rain bills while another man throws fifty $20 bills and has to use the exact same expression. Congress must standardize a “making it rain bills” minimum.)
I myself have done my part to increase the popularity of the $1 coin. When the Sacajawea $1 coin debuted I tried replacing “dollar” with “Sacajawea” in popular idiomatic sayings:
“You’re a day late and a Sacajawea short.”
“That guy will do anything for a Sacajawea.”
“I’ll bet you Sacajaweas to doughnuts…”
“I feel like a million Sacajaweas!”
“I paid top Sacajawea for this smoking jacket.”
Not only did none of these alternative idioms catch on, but I never even got a sympathy laugh because 90% of people didn’t know Sacajawea was on a $1 coin, and 80% of people had never even heard of Sacajawea, and if you have to explain the joke with a Lewis and Clark Expedition history lesson then the joke is not funny.
Part 2 tomorrow as I offer my suggestions for $1 coins the public would actually want to collect.