Welcome once again to Time Travel Tuesdays, the Evertime Realms feature that’s so acclaimed I totally forgot to do it last week and nobody noticed. Today’s column goes back to 2002, to a time when the US Mint was considering a few… changes…
The Next Change Coming to Your Pockets
September 14, 2002
From our “Glad to know you guys are keeping busy” department, the United States Mint announced this week that they are considering making changes to our change.
Pocket change, that is. You know, that jingly jangly stuff you hear in your pants when you’re trying to find a dollar bill for the soda machine. Officials for the mint say that they are responding to complaints from “experts and collectors” that the current design of our metal money is stagnant and boring. I can understand that. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at a vending machine and thought, “You know, I’d like to go ahead and get a candy bar, but these nickels are so dull…” American business doubtlessly loses billions every year due to coin-boringness.
There are suggestions to introduce a brand-new nickel sometime next year, a new dime in 2004, a new half-dollar in 2005 (I didn’t know they still minted them either) and a new penny in 2006.
Ah — I believe we have a question from the audience. Yes, you in the back. Haha! I thought so. For those of you who can’t hear through a newspaper like I can, what the gentleman with the Norwegian accent said was, “Why don’t they just get rid of the penny entirely?”
This is a position that many people have taken in recent years, using the understandable argument that nobody has actually purchased anything with the use of a single penny since 1984, and that was at a garage sale in Hackensack, N.J. (It was for a Tupperware lid without the tub.)
While I can understand this logic in theory, I think the penny is still a necessary denomination of money because, at present, there is some weird alien force at work that mandates everything in America, after sales tax is added, cost something dollars and 87 cents.
Some people would be content to just let businesses keep those three extra cents in exchange for not having to deal with pennies, but not me! That adds up, buddy. No, I take a very different approach. I am currently stockpiling pennies in a series of jars, dishes and empty film canisters, waiting for the day when I have amassed enough of them that I can pay my entire income tax for one year in pennies. Can you imagine the IRS agent who would have to sit there and count through that to make sure it was the right amount? Hee hee… and it’d be perfectly legal, too, that’s what I love about it. Ah, bliss…
Eh? Oh, sorry. Got off the subject there. Back to the redesigned coinage — the quarter would remain the same (since the mint isn’t even halfway through that 50 state quarter deal anyway). There is also talk about changing the “golden dollar” coin which was released two years ago to such acclaim that to this very day nobody has spent one.
For the remaining coins, the mint says possible themes include: innovation, vistas, arts and culture, classic coins, the West, presidents, heroes and heroines, women, endangered species, animals and Nobel Prize winners.
Okay, first let’s get rid of the easy one, “classic coins.” The problem is that people think the current design is boring, so the solution is to bring back an older design? Some old coins were so dull that, during the Civil War, Union soldiers threw pennies at Confederates who immediately either fell asleep or stood around wondering when Lincoln grew that beard. Either way, they were easy pickings.
Then there are the redundant categories — “presidents,” “women” and “Nobel Prize winners.” As long as someone falls into the category of “heroes,” also up there, none of these other things should matter.
There are the animal coins and the obvious problem that no matter what animals you pick, you’ll enrage the lovers of all other animals. If you pick the turkey, the dolphin people will get mad. If you pick the dolphin the cockroach lobby will be outraged. Better to avoid this problem altogether.
The idea of putting “innovations” on a coin kind of bothers me as well, since many of our steps forward seem like a couple of steps back to a lot of people. Although there would be some sort of delicious irony in using a nickel with a picture of a cell phone on it to feed one of the three remaining pay phones in America.
So if you’ve really got the time to worry about what your dimes look like, fine, but instead of looking for excuses to stamp an owl or the Grand Canyon or something on a coin, why not go straight to the people who have already paid for this country with our dearest coin of all? How about a soldier on the penny, an EMT on the nickel, a cop on the dime and a firefighter on the half-dollar?
The only problem you’d have then would be a reluctance to spend money once people notice how dear they really are.
Blake M. Petit aspires to one day be important enough to have his picture on Monopoly money. Contact him with comments, suggestions or more pennies for his insidious plan at BlakeMPetit@gmail.com