Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

A grimly amusing story from the BBC explaining  Why the US keeps minting coins people hate and won’t use . (I should credit my eldest son for sending me the link.) It begins:

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.

Americans won’t use the coins, preferring $1 notes. But the US keeps minting them anyway, and the Fed estimates it already has enough $1 coins to last the next 10 years.

Among the amusements are the government’s explanations for why people won’t use them,which leave out the obvious: People just don’t like to carry coins when they can carry bills. Coins are heavier. You notice three dollar coins in your pocket. You don’t notice three dollar bills in your wallet. This may explain why “The US Mint declined to make officials available for an interview.”

Judging from the government’s explanations given in the article, the official line is that coins are in practice the same as bills. This is not true, and people know it, but official government lines and obvious reality do not always overlap.

The federal government has spent almost $100 million promoting the coins.

The article says that:

US officials and coin experts note that Australia, Britain, Canada and Japan have successfully introduced coins in similar denominations, but only after phasing out paper notes.

I like that “but.” I could “successfully” introduce beer to a convention of teetotalers in the desert if I took away all the water, milk, and ice tea.

There may be good reasons for switching to coins — the article claims doing so would save the country $500 to $700 million a year in printing costs — but there’s no reason to keep making coins we can’t use. The article doesn’t note the costs of that . But that’s the way our government works.

Comments are visible to subscribers only. Log in or subscribe to join the conversation.



Filter First Thoughts Posts

Related Articles