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Posted at 07:00 AM ET, 12/15/2011

Dollar dollar bills, y’all — an end to dollar coins


Making dollars, not sense. (Brian Kersey - AP)
Dollar dollar bills, y’all.

No more millions of commemorative presidential dollar coins. Those are out the window.

The U.S. Mint has decided to drastically cap its production of gold dollar coins. It seems no one wants them. The mint is sitting on about 1.4 billion of the things. People have returned them in disgust. “What do you think this is, Europe?” they bellow. “We don’t pay for things using gold! We pay for them using crinkly, odd-textured pieces of greenish paper that contain secret Masonic symbols!”

Until the Obama administration stopped production just now, the mint was, in response to a mandate from Congress, dutifully churning out coins with each of the presidents on them. So far it had gotten all the way from Washington through James Garfield, with Chester A. Arthur on deck.

In the immortal words of Joe Biden, “And as it will shock you all, the call for Chester A. Arthur coins is not there.”

But I have to say, I’m disappointed at the passing of the metal buck. It’s not that I’m a great admirer of Chester A. Arthur (I am, but that’s another story). I liked the coins. Who doesn’t like gold coins? Initially, this is exciting because you have the sense they might be filled with chocolate. But even after you bite them and discover they aren’t, they have their uses. You can get a wheelbarrow full of them for just $200 and bathe in them like Scrooge McDuck.

But these days bathing in money is frowned upon. It’s disconcertingly 1 percentish.

But the coins have other uses — you can buy objects from vending machines with ease, because they do not fold into unrecognizable messes in your pocket. And say what you will about gold coins, they are nearly impossible to shape into decorative oragami frogs that impress you so much that you are unable to spend them.

It’s a question of public morality as well. The last thing we need is strippers who are free to move about as they choose, not weighted down by thongs full of heavy metal currency. Pelt people in clubs with dollar bills? They will dance and cheer that you are making it rain. Drop coins on them? They will return home, discouraged and read improving tracts. In theory. Also, it is impossible to weaponize a dollar bill. Just try pelting squirrels with them. They stare at you, nonplussed.

We’ve always had a slightly illogical attitude toward currency. Pennies? We love them. How else are we expected to buy people’s thoughts? They’re lucky! But gold dollar coins? Nothing you put on them can satisfy us. We’ve tried nearly everything. Sacagawea? We don’t like our gilt guilt-inducing. Susan B. Anthony? Too angular. George Washington? He just looks wrong when he’s not off-green and vaguely dyspeptic.

If we stopped printing the dollar bill because we issued in the coins, the noble doubloons might stand a chance. But we couldn’t possibly do that. This is America.

And so now they’re off the market, with the exception of a few produced annually for the six people in the United States excited by the prospect of a Chester A. Arthur commemorative coin. Perhaps it’s logical. Tim Geithner says that “we shouldn’t be wasting money on money.” But what does he know about money? He’s presided over the worst recession in recent memory! Maybe we should ignore his recommendations.

Just because people don’t want their dollar coins and are giving 40 percent of them back to the mint doesn’t mean that they’re a bad thing. If you don’t want your dollar coints, don’t give them to the mint! Give them to me! I’ll take them! I’ll provide them with a home where they will be treasured and made to feel welcome. I’ll even pay you a penny for them.

By  |  07:00 AM ET, 12/15/2011

 
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