Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Price of Stupid

Occasionally we don't seem to know what is good for us. We are very often too stupid to break out of our ignorance and find a better way.

Many nations in the world have coin denominations that are a bit larger than the smallest of change. In Switzerland, for example, I remember the convenience of a one, two and five franc coin. They were all silver in color, but different in size and with a different imprint, of course. No one seemed to have much difficulty figuring it all out. The coins were durable, efficient, convenient and ubiquitous.

Once upon a time in America we had the silver dollar. I recall during my first visit to Las Vegas, half a century ago, that the casinos did not have a $1.00 chip. They used the real deal. I will admit, however, that walking away from a crap table with a hundred of them was a bit of a load. Fortunately it didn't happen that often.

Overnight, the cartwheels disappeared. A decade later the Susan B. Anthony dollar coin surfaced. It was slightly larger than a quarter and for those dimensionally challenged individuals, it had a raised polygonal edging to allow a tactile differentiation. That was inadequate for the terminally dumb. People eschewed the coins claiming inability to tell the difference.

Despite that, the logic of a dollar coin remained. The futility of trying to stuff a wrinkled silver certificate of George Washington into the obstinate mouth of a vending machine didn't seem to bother folks enough to make them accept the gold-colored Sacagawea dollar.

Now, we've got this:

Billion Bucks in Presidential Coins Lies Dormant

There simply is no good reason for not putting those coins into circulation. They might be used and that would be fine. They might be rat-holed by Grandmothers to save as a legacy for their grandchildren. That would be equally fine. If they were released at the same time as a discontinuation or drastic reduction in printing of the one dollar certificate, they would have to be accepted and maybe even the ignorant might come around to the convenience.

Or, we might find that money is increasingly not a requirement for commerce at all. We'd simply swipe our card, tap our iPhone, or wave our key-chain at the scanner and forget about making change at all.


immagikman said...

Aside from the cash I keep in the Safe I dont carry much in the way of cash and only for those rare occasions when I cannot use the debit card. And now that Uncle Sam is printing like Scrooge McDuck Im renewing my efforts to obtain silver and gold bits to sock away for the coming reckoning.

drjim said...

I agree. I've been buying "junk silver" for the last couple of years. It's far more negotiable than fancy "collector coins"!

Jon said...

I've looked at getting some of the presidential coins, but I so seldom use cash that it would take me six months to go through a case of 250. Plastic, either debit or credit, or the RF emitter "Blink", is just far too convenient for me, and provides better expense tracking.

Anna said...

How momunetally stupid this whole affair is. $1 billion in real tangible money sitting there being unusued. Meanwhile Geithner and Bernanke just finsihed creating out of thin air $600 billion for QE2. Release the coins!

The Donald said...

The Price of Stupid?

Like diamonds and rust, I think I've already paid...

Charles Pergiel said...

I am confused. Everything I read says people are rejecting the dollar coins. I don't get it. Who ever has a choice? I go to the store, I pay in cash, they give me change. I take what they give me. They hardly ever give me dollar coins. If the mint shipped dollar coins out instead of dollar bills, that's what people would use. Who is making the decision on what to ship? Sounds like a committee.