Grand Rapids, and thus West Michigan where I live, has been tabbed by the federal government as one of four “promotional communities” to promote the new presidential one dollar coins. The Grand Rapids Press has a pretty concise description of the whole thing that you can read here.
The gist of it is, our fine federal government has decided that it is once again time to prove that the American public, that is you and I, are too dumb to accept the general distribution and use of the one dollar coin. How do they go about proving this? Well, duh – I already told you, they’ve started a program of four “promotional communities” that will prove that we don’t want to use these things.
Before they can begin the public proof of their theory they must first develop the coin. This is key to the failure of the effort. The Susan B. Anthony coin failed spectacularly in no small part due to the design of the coin. They made it look and feel like a quarter, so that anybody dumb enough to have one of these things in their pocket would inevitably make the mistake of using it as a quarter and lose 75 cents. They wanted to be more progressive in their new campaign so in 1997 they came up with the Sacagawea dollar. They kept the same basic size and shape of the quarter, but made it out of a “gold” colored composite that didn’t wear well and would lose its color if it ever went into standard circulation. That was a good start, but it still didn’t seem like enough. Since the “state quarter” program succeeded so well in taking currency out of circulation, with every school kid in the country having a U.S. map with about 30 quarters stuck in it, they invented the “presidential dollar” coin in 2005. The first stampings of the first four presidents; Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison began last year. This year they added Monroe, Jackson, Van Buren, and John Quincy Adams.
They felt that once again kids all across the country would start half-hearted collections, this time removing a dollar at a time from circulation. Who says that the federal government doesn’t promote savings? They kept the same poorly designed shape and size, and the same bad colored composite as the failed Sacagawea coin – which is still being produced and sold but no longer put into general circulation. And just to spice things up, the put the words “In God We Trust,” and “E Pluribus Unum” as well as the issue year and mint mark on the edge. Since the stamping process does not control which direction the edge stamping occurs this gives the evangelical, “right thinking,” anti-abortion, functionally delusion, whacko nut job right something to complain about. You can read more about that here.
Now that they’ve got the properly designed failure of a coin, they can begin to doom the circulation process with their pilot project.
First up, they spend untold amounts of money running commercials in the test markets. I looked high and low on the old interweb for a copy of this commercial, because it is just so bad that it funny. The ads feature the Statue of Liberty walking off of her pedestal and into a park in New York City where she buys a hot dog from a vendor and pays for it with two shiny gold colored presidential coins.
Secondly they… Well, they didn’t do anything else that I’ve been able to observe. I went into both of the banks in our humble little burg of Spring Lake and asked for the coins. Both times I was met with blank stares and the answer “I don’t think we have any of those.”
If it had been my project I might have done a few things like:
1) made sure that the banks all had a HUGE supply of the coins,
2) stopped giving the banks any more paper one dollar bills, and
3) induced the vending machine companies to put in machines that would take the coins everywhere.
But no, our government is determined to make sure that this effort fails as well.
How can I be so cynical? How can I not be so cynical! If they really wanted to make it work, all they have to do is look one country north to Canada and 21 years into the past to 1987. The process is so easy if you really think about it. Here are the simple steps that the Canadian government followed:
1) Design a coin that is larger than any of the others in circulation and make it an eleven sided polygon so that you can instantly tell by feel that it is a one dollar coin. Bronze plate the coin so that it has a color distinct from any other coin, although similar to the penny, and will retain the color.
2) Stop printing paper one dollar bills.
That’s it. Just two steps needed. No big advertising campaign. No downloadable “presidential coin screensaver” (really – look here). I was living in Detroit in 1987 and associating with known Canadians in Windsor where we enjoyed the bar scene and the “Windsor Ballet.” For those not in the know, the “Windsor Ballet” refers to the many fine adult entertainment establishments in the city. The only downside that I saw to their conversion to the Loonie was that you now had to tip the dancers with two dollar Canadian bills (or bring a wad of American singles with you).
As an aside, the Canadian government in its eternal vigilance to protect the arts and artists introduced the Toonie. The Toonie is a two dollar coin that forced the minimum tip for a dancer up to five dollars Canadian.
If either of our current presidential prospects wants to go down in history and stimulate the economy at the same time – all they have to do is follow the Canadian example and properly introduce useful one and two dollar coins. They will be noted in history for the successful introduction of the coins and the economy will be stimulated as the wages of exotic dancers all across this great land increase fivefold.
Any one want to bet a Loonie on that happening?