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The E-Sylum:  Volume 9, Number 8, February 19, 2006, Article 29

U.S. COIN DESIGNS CALLED NOT "PEOPLE FRIENDLY"

Dick Johnson writes: "Ever wonder why current American coins
do not have number denominations on them? The denominations
-- if they do appear -- are spelled out.  Bob Arndorfer of
the Gainesville Florida Sun was asked about this by a reader
and wrote about it in last Friday's paper.  He got an answer
from Michael White of the U.S. Mint."

"In the eight months she has been in the United States, Kim
Salil Gokhale of India says, she has learned a lot about its
people and culture.

One thing that has perplexed her about a country "so advanced
and people-friendly," however, is its not-so-friendly monetary
system. Specifically its coins.

"I observed a very curious thing - that none of the U.S. coins
has numerical denominations on them," Gokhale said in a submission
to Since You Asked. "In addition, the coin for a dime does not
say how many cents make a dime."

That surprised even some Americans for whom the penny, nickel,
dime and quarter are, in coin-speak, their first language.

The penny is "one cent," not "1 cent."

The nickel isn't helpfully identified as "5 cents" - or even
"nickel" for that matter - but "five cents."

The 10-cent piece, as our questioner rightly points out, is
"one dime."

And the quarter? Forget about it. It's "quarter dollar," not
even "twenty-five cents."

"Imagine being stuck in an international airport in Europe/Asia
having to use a coin that would not tell you anything numerically,
a coin that bears just the spelling of the denomination in local
language," Gokhale said. "Would it not be easier to understand
'10 cents' instead of 'one dime?'"

Good question, one that was posed to Michael White, a spokesman
for the United States Mint.

Why don't U.S. coins have numerical designations, as coins
in India and many other countries do?

"It is artistic choice in the majority of instances," White
said by phone from his office in Washington, D.C."

In the case of the dollar coin, he said, legislation that
created it required it to be called "one dollar." Of course,
the dollar coin is so uncommon, it's not likely to confuse
many people.

Referencing the Web site coinfacts.com, White said there are
many examples among historic coins in which some type of number
was used."

"If Gokhale thinks today's dime is curious, she's lucky she
didn't have to deal with its earliest ancestor.

White said the first dimes from 1796 to 1807 had nothing to
identify their denomination. They had an eagle, a busty Lady
Liberty and the words "Liberty" and "United States of America,"
but that was it.

"Then from 1809 to 1837, the dime had '10 c.' on it," White
said. "From 1837 on, it was called 'one dime.'"

To read the complete story, see: Full Story

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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