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Archive for November 2012

I’d Buy That for a Dollar

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I suppose I’m one of the few Americans who actually likes the dollar coin. As a kid I was always fascinated with the John Kennedy half dollar coin. They seemed so huge, so important, that once I had one, I didn’t want to spend it, I wanted to keep it forever.

That seems to be the general problem with public acceptance of dollar coins now. Once you have one, you’re more likely to keep it than to spend it.

But I discovered some years ago, when the golden Sacajawea dollar coin was introduced, that instead of piling up in a Mason jar, the dollar coins they made handy tips at restaurants, and were perfect for the Sunday collection plate. Giving a golden coin or two just somehow felt better as a gift than wrinkled, worn paper dollars.

The Sacajawea coin was a bit more popular with the public than was the Susan B. Anthony coin, but since the Anthony coins were introduced to, and mostly rejected by, the public in the late 1970s, something changed: inflation.

The cost of parking and transit had risen in the intervening years to the point that it made more economic sense to use a dollar coin instead of a token for subway rides or parking-garage fees.

Dollar coinsLast night I was reminded of the literally “token” role that dollar coins play in parking and transit. I was leaving a parking garage downtown and only had a $20 bill to pay my $6 parking garage fee. To my delight and nostalgia, when I fed the $20 into the exit-gate machine, instead of paper money in the change window, out came tumbling $14 worth of those familiar silver and golden coins. The picture on the left is a selection of some of the coins I received.

It’s true that $14 in dollar coins is a lot heavier than paper money, but I think that’s OK. It’s a reminder that money literally and figuratively has weight in our society, and that we should think carefully how we spend it.

Follow me on Twitter at @charlesprimm.


Written by Charles Primm

November 9, 2012 at 12:16 pm

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