April 27, 2005

Coming soon to a bank near you: A Bubba dollar?

Just imagine using a dollar coin with the likeness of former President Bubba. Or even one with President Bush on it.

Now before you click to another site in disgust (or alternately, in glee; and to coin a phrase from Paul Harvey), let me tell you the REST of the story.

While most Americans have never used one, most are familiar with the dollar coin. The head of the current gold-colored dollar coin has the face of Shoshone Indian Sacagawea, who, as a part of the Corps of Discovery, helped famed explorers Lewis and Clark cross the North American continent two hundred years ago. Though they have been minted since 2000, more than 95 percent of Americans no longer use them, relegating them to the same category as the Susan B. Anthony dollar.

Millions of the Anthony dollars, minted in 1979 and 1981 (and once more in 1999), were pushed by the US Mint as an alternative to dollar bills as well. But they, too, were relegated to the scrap heap -- or junk change drawer -- of history. Most Americans only saw them when they used automated stamp machines in Post Offices, and this, despite the fact that coinage is cheaper to produce and is far more durable than paper currency.

Enter the US Congress this week.

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed a bill to create a new $1 coin, which would accompany the current Sacagawea piece. The measure enjoyed enormous bipartisan support, passing by a vote of 422 to 6.

Assuming a companion bill makes it through the Senate, the nation would be on its way to taking another stab at a dollar coin.

The idea steals a page from the popular 50 State Quarters series, in which the engraving on the 25-cent piece rotates to honor all the states. That legislation was also the brainchild of Rep. (Michael) Castle (R-DE).

The subjects depicted on the dollar coins would be the U.S. presidents. The plan is to introduce four new ones a year beginning in 2007, honoring each of the nation's chief executives in the order of their service.

Based on this plan, by 2018, when Bill Clinton and George W. Bush are in their 70s, the pair would become the first living persons to be enshrined on a US minted coin.

And a word of advice -- if you want people to actually use the new dollar coins, you have to remove the dollar bill from circulation. Otherwise, the habit of slipping a buck into your wallet as opposed to a Bubba coin in your pocket will win out - no matter who is on the money.

(More coverage from Full of Crap, OTB's Beltway Traffic Jam & others)

Posted by mhking at April 27, 2005 04:45 PM

The main thing would be to have to differentiate from quarters. Most people use change mainly for things like vending machines. While I personally think that dollar coins would be quite useful, you would have to change a whole lot of automated machines that take coins.

Posted by: TheRoyalFamily at April 27, 2005 05:07 PM

I'm changing my will. I want to be buried with Martin Van Buren dollar coins over my eyes.

Posted by: Laurence Simon at April 27, 2005 05:17 PM

From my perspective the main problem with dollar coins is the weight. I can stuff ten dollars in one dollar bills in my pocket and be fine but ten coins - plus other change - pulls my pants down.

Having your pants around your knees may be the thing for kids but I'm too damn old for it.

Posted by: Keith at April 27, 2005 08:58 PM

I just got back from the UK. They don't have notes smaller than 5 Pounds, so you always have change rattling around in your pocket -- unless you want to leave a good bit of your cash behind. I didn't care for it. I usually ditch my change in a coin bank, but if we had nothing smaller than a 5, like in the UK, I'd have to find a way to carry it. I'm pretty sure that's why dollar coins have never caught on.

Posted by: DC at April 27, 2005 11:17 PM

I used to live in Japan where the smallest denomination paper money is 1000 yen (roughly $10). They use coins for 500, 100, and smaller yen denominations, so you constantly have a pocket full of coins. I found it most annoying. I think the dollar coin will continue to fail because, quite frankly, they're less convenient.

Posted by: Beck at April 28, 2005 07:34 AM

"Based on this plan, by 2018, when Bill Clinton and George W. Bush are in their 70s, the pair would become the first living persons to be enshrined on a US minted coin." And four years later in 2022 we would be putting the president-ELECT on a coin. Whoah!

Posted by: Hal Duston at April 28, 2005 04:29 PM

I went to Australia back in the 80s and they had apparently just dropped their dollar bill in favor of a dollar coin and it seemed to be working out well. Depending on how far back you go and adjusting for inflation, the dollar isn't worth a dime. I think a good interim measure would be to drop the penny, get a dollar coin, then increase circulation of the $2 bill, which we already have.


Posted by: Don at April 28, 2005 09:39 PM

The only reason Congress wants to make a dollar coin is that when collectors save them, the banks have to order more. Now, keep in mind that banks will pay $1 for each one dollar coin (Duh, right?). But the mint is only spending 8 or ten cents to actually make it, so they are getting a really big profit on that. Unlike the other three dollar coins, which were supposed to work, the Treasury actually WANTS these new coins to fail. They want people to hoard them and give the government money, which is called seigniorage. The 50 State Quarters Program has made the government about $5 billion, at a 20 cent profit. Since there are almost the same number of presidents as there are states, there will be a similar number of coins collected, except instead of making a 20 cent profit, they will be making a 90 cent profit. It's actually a really good idea.

Posted by: Joe at June 18, 2005 08:50 PM
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