Can You Tell This is a Government Operation?

Only the federal government could screw up printing money. The BBC is noting that the US keep printing billions of dollars worth of coins that no one wants to use:

In hidden vaults across the country, the US government is building a stockpile of $1 coins. The hoard has topped $1.1bn – imagine a stack of coins reaching almost seven times higher than the International Space Station – and the piles have grown so large the US Federal Reserve is running out of storage space.

And it’s apparently going to continue, “because the law requires the US Mint to issue four new presidential coins each year even if most of the previous year’s coins remain in government vaults.” Brilliant. I would not that this Act passed in 2005, meaning this was Republican brilliance. The only way to get Americans to adopt a coin dollar is to stop producing the Greenback. No politician wants to be on the record as voting for that, so we get idiocy instead.

Personally, if it costs the federal government half a billion, to three-quarters of a billion dollars each year to print replacement greenbacks, I’m in favor of switching to coins. But I suspect many Americans are emotionally attached to the Greenback, and my view is a minority one.

33 thoughts on “Can You Tell This is a Government Operation?”

  1. I’m thinking about going down to the bank and getting enough of them to pay the not-wearing-my-damn-seatbelt ticket I got today – all $100+ of it.

  2. I like the coins. The Coke machine at the office takes them, and it is far more reliable than the paper feed.

  3. If more vending machines too them – I’d be in favor. Even so, I’d like to get more dollar coins than I do. But the only thing I use singles for is feeding vending machines, so they’re not as useful as a bill.

    More useful back when I was taking the PATH and the fare was $1. The ticket machines would take $20s and give back sacagewejas (SP?), which *was* damn convenient.

  4. I lived in Europe for quite awhile, where coins were used as we use $1 bills. Pain. In. The. Pocket. Hated it. Stop minting the damn coins and melt down the ones in storage.

  5. Where are the congressmen complaining about wasteful spending when these bills pass? Apparently many of them are present and voting yes – and then the president is signing the bill.

    Perhaps Ron Paul can have his staff write a dollar coin version of his Make No Cents Until It Makes Sense Act

  6. Going with Eric on this one. Carry $20 in coins in one pocket and $20 in bills on the other and you will feel the difference.

  7. The problem with dollar coins is that there is no place to put them in the cash register drawers. So every business would have to invest in new drawers which they aren’t willing to do until the coins are in widespread use. Even if you do use them, the merchant dumps them in the bank bag rather then using them in circulation.

    Same problem with going metric. Back in the Clinton Administration, the Commerce Department was going metric to spur the country. Well, they never did find the millions of dollars for new file cabinets. Metric paper is just slightly larger than the English equivalent. Seems file cabinets just don’t wear out. Of course, they did fail to do the obvious which was to mandate all new cabinets and other holders of paper be metric in size. Government, they got an idea but not much realworld experience.

  8. Smart consumers picked up on this a couple of years ago.

    You can buy the dollar coins at face value with free shipping using a rewards credit cart. I’ll let you figure out the rest.

  9. I actually rather like the presidential coins. Whenever I bought my hot chocolate or a croissant outside my classroom, it was a chance to share a little bit of history with the gal behind the counter!

  10. JKB, there was a big push during the Ford Administration to go metric. A lot of folks went along, “Guns & Ammo” began using both metric and US caliber designations. I remember that because I wrote them a letter suggesting that they not use the metric designations for common American calibers, such as the .45, .38, .30-30, etc.

    I remember this because I received a nice letter from the Editor-in-Chief, thanking me for my suggestion and mentioning that he was really pleased to receive a letter that didn’t accuse him of participating in a “Communist plot”.

    Anyway, the Canadian government also began a campaign to “metrify” their country at the same time. Canadians said “ok, eh?” and did it. Americans pretty much said “eff you” and here we are.

  11. Metric is nice, if all you ever want to do is divide by 2, 5, and 10.

    The credit card rewards trick is mostly obsolete at this point – too many people figured it out, and I believe they are no longer doing free shipping. (I think some overzealous prosecutor may have gone after some guy for money laundering, but that may be a product of my imagination as well – so don’t quote me on it).

    Other than the last time I went on vacation out of country, I dont’ believe I’ve carried enough in singles to make a noticeable annoyance of carrying coins instead. Plastic means I can track and itemize my expenditures. Paper/coins means money leaks. (Yes, I know I could save receipts – I never do).

  12. Put Reagan exclusively on the dollar coin and it would be the only currency I’d use.

    No offense to Millard Filmore, but I don’t know that he exactly deserves his face on a coin.

  13. The problem with dollar coins is that there is no place to put them in the cash register drawers.

    Yes there is.

    Every cash register I have ever worked with has had at least five coin trays, the fifth one intended to hold half-dollars, $1 coins, or whatever, and which usually ends up full of paper clips and crap like that.

  14. JKB,

    If God wanted us to use the metric system, he’d have given us ten fingers and ten toes.

  15. I lived in Canada when they got rid of the $2 notes. There already weren’t any $1 notes, they had been replaced with the Looney five years before. The Twoney was introduced and circulated with the $2 notes for about a year (although no new $2 bills were printed). Then there was a grace period of about 6 months when the $2 bills were accepted but were not given out as change or otherwise kept in circulation. After that, $2 bills could only be turned in at banks for another short while (I can’t remember how long). Finally, $2 bills were worthless. And they only have Loonies and Twonies.

    Europe went through a similar experience when they switched over to the Euro. Part of the problem now is that the Congress has gotten involved in dictating how much coinage needs to be produced (hence the vaults of $1 coins). I would like to see the $1 and $5 bills go away, mint a $2 and $5 coin, get rid of the penny and the nickel as well.

  16. @Tam: The cost of yet another keyboard has been added to your running tab.

    I can *do* metric – hammered into my head both as a sprog and in a fairly serious engineering school. I just don’t *get* it; even though I can do a fairly good eyeball in cm due to my “more expensive than gun” hobby (GW wargaming – I’ve spent much more on minis than I have on guns).

    I’m not a terribly big fan of dropping a significant digit in our money – pennies add up to dollars – and if someone has to calibrate their profits in dimes instead of pennies, that gets passed onto the customer. Particularly in sales tax. (Which reminds me – I need to write my rant on why sales tax is worse than income tax)

  17. Guys! You’re missing the obvious. Eliminating the dollar bill will hurt a crucial industry, perhaps fatally. What’s to become of “professional” dancers if they can’t get dollar tips? Kind of hard to stuff a coin in a…uh…oh…wait…did I say that out loud? Not that I know anything about “professional” dancers mind you!

  18. Some clubs already use $2 or $5 bills, in Canada you throw your looney’s on the stage and she scoops them up after the dance (but that is not nearly as exciting)…

  19. @ian – Most GW games are still in Imperial units – well, at least the two mainstays – which is great considering the company is British.

    Mostly what I see are $20’s – as this is what the ATM’s dispense. Given the number of ATM’s out there, I figure that that has more of a impact in choice of currency than the boxes in cash drawers.

    I actually prefer the $1 coin and my dad love the $2 bill.

  20. Admittedly, sometimes I am old-fashioned (or simply difficult for its own sake), but I like dollar coins. And two-dollar bills. I use ’em when I can; I need to start picking up $20 or so in jinglebucks on payday.

  21. Amusing.

    I got a bunch of dollar coins in change when I put a $20-bill into a machine meant to take payments for a parking garage in downtown Detroit. (If you know D-Town, it was one of the garages near the RenCen…)

    I haven’t seen many others.

    I wonder what the existence of warehouses full of spares will do to coin collectors and their valuations.

    It’ll be awhile before dollar-coins will have any value as a collectible, though.

  22. I haven’t seen a dollar coin in person in several years. It’s been literally decades since I saw a two dollar bill.

    My grandmother collected two dollar bills. Her house got robbed (this was probably about twenty-five years ago). The young punks ripped off the Jeffersons – and went down the road to the 7-11 and passed them off as twenties. I’ve never looked at the two the same.

  23. @jmt – I play not only 40K, but a couple of the specialist games; hence needing to be good at estimating in cm. (WH Fantasy is for people with WAY too much spare change).

    I have both a dollar coin and a 50-cent piece in my wallet; the 50-cent piece was picked up at Atlantic City, where I got it as change when the dealer’s rake worked out to include 50 cents.

    I don’t currently have a Sacageweja; I lost the last one I had some moves back.

  24. “Metric is nice, if all you ever want to do is divide by 2, 5, and 10.”

    The nice thing about metric is that unit conversions are easy. Typically you just have to do power of ten changes. Compare that to imperial where you have all sorts of odd conversion factors thrown in. Nobody writes serious engineering software in english/imperial.

    “I’m not a terribly big fan of dropping a significant digit in our money – pennies add up to dollars – and if someone has to calibrate their profits in dimes instead of pennies, that gets passed onto the customer.”

    So do mills but nobody complains about them being omitted from calculations. They were established in 1792 and have not been demonetized. The penny is rapidly approaching this value threshold thanks to inflation.

  25. For engineering purposes I don’t disagree that metric is preferred. But there’s more to life than engineering.

    As for dropping the penny and the nickel, let me put it this way; I don’t want to have to round my sales tax to the next-highest 10 cents. (Though I find it interesting that the gas pumps can be priced in millibucks; and consequently do).

  26. The difference between the dollar bill and coin is kinda subtle.

    The Federal Reserve (not a branch of government) is responsible for paper currency. The United States Mint makes coins.

    When a $1 coin is put into circulation, the government makes a profit of about 97 cents. That is, the government pays a $1 debt for three cents.

  27. “For engineering purposes I don’t disagree that metric is preferred. But there’s more to life than engineering.”

    Is metric really the preferred system in engineering? When I took a machining class (which, admittedly, isn’t engineering–machining is the art of making what the engineer designed) everything was in inches. Of course, the unit I remember most from that class is .001″ (ie, one-thousandth of an inch).

    I still remember a physics problem I had in college, that had one metric unit and the rest were in Imperial. Since I like Imperial, and it was also the path of least resistance, I naturally converted the metric to Imperial, and I did my calculations. My physics professor wasn’t too pleased with that!

    Come to think of it, when I played chess, I preferred the method of identifying the rows with the pieces (the “Imperial”?) over the letter-number scheme (the “metric”): the latter just lacks a certain symmetry that makes it more difficult for me to understand!

  28. Also: I’m for getting the Fed, (a quasi-government agency) and the Government itself, out of the business of coining money. I really like the idea of trading in whatever currency someone is willing to take, with the expectation that most of our trading would probably be based on two precious metals, most likely gold and silver; this will only work out if trading between the two isn’t fixed, either.

    Governments over the centuries have demonstrated that they cannot be trusted to handle the money supply. We really ought to figure out the best way to privatize it! (When I say “figure out the best way to” I mean “figure out how to keep the government from interfering with our attempt to”

  29. Theory:

    Having a billion $1 coins on hand makes for logistical leverage when someone comes demanding prompt payment for very large debts in hard currency. “You want your $1,000,000,000 in Treasury bonds paid up now? Right now? Fine. Get ready to receive 8,910 tons of metal. No? Good, you can wait then.”

    It’s the federal version of “I’ll pay my income tax in pennies!”

  30. On the subject of fiat money – I have a wonderful post that will not fit in this comment box that will go over some of the negative aspects of “hard” money vs fiat money. One of them being, essentially, that fiat money allows the private transactors to determine the actual value of the money and the money supply. The government has input, of course, but not total control.

  31. Is metric really the preferred system in engineering?

    yes. also physics, and any other field where you have to convert between units of measure a lot.

    going from length and weight through momentum to force to pressure is relatively straightforward in metric, just keep your thousands and thousandths straight and you’re good to go. trying to do the same in imperial is a royal PITA; much easier to convert to metric first, do the calculation, and then maybe convert back. that’s probably what’s done with manufacturing blueprints, i imagine. if not, well, up to the engineer / designer if they really want to waste their time and numerical accuracy on all those conversion factors instead of just doing it the smart way.

    ‘course, us comp sci nerds have set ourselves up for a similar PITA down the line with our insisting that “kilo” = 1,024. eventually we’re going to have to realize that base 2 is best left for the bare metal, with automatic conversions to decimal for us humans.

    i haven’t dealt with electrical engineering enough to know, but i imagine it’s all metric there; i don’t even know what the imperial versions of volts and amperes might be, if ever there were any.

  32. I don’t know if there are official non-SI units for electrical stuff, either. I tend to think not.

    BTW – I also happen to think school should teach the use of slipsticks primarily to drill in the skills of properly assigning the decimal point in calculations… I learned to do basic operation son a slipstick on my own, and the hands-on of how and why it works really helps nail down the theory of math. I also don’t come down on so-called New Math all that hard, as long as the people teaching make sure not only do you know the theory, but that the answer comes out right. OTOH, I learned a lot of “shortcuts” from people who learned the older way, too.

  33. Okay, here is half the problem. The banks don’t let them out.

    Seriously. I love the presidential dollars. I use them for ren-fairs. I’ll buy about $100-$150 worth. And then fill up a pouch with them.

    Then anything I buy (within reason) I purchase with coin. Just makes the feel of the fair so much more awesome.

    But get this, everytime I try to buy them. I have to fight with the banks. Sometimes I’ve fought just to get one roll of dollars. Occasionally I can get 3-4. But the banks try to ration them as collectibles.

    Hence, the problem getting them into circulation.

    I love these things, and think the solution is Coca-cola. If we could get coca-cola to take dollar coins in their machines.

    a) they’d increase in common usage
    b) we wouldn’t waste 5 minutes trying to get those damnable machines to take our dollar bills.

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