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The E-Sylum: Volume 12, Number 21, May 24, 2009, Article 11

NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL ON U.S. COINS

Dick Johnson submitted the following thoughts on a recent New York Times article. -Editor
Michael Zielinski, the guru behind CoinNetwork.com, wrote an editorial which the New York Times published Wednesday, May 20, 2009. He takes a stand against the multitude of coin issues pouring out of the U.S. Mints.

Michael is quite accurate in his review of all the past multiple coin issues, dominated, of course, by the statehood quarter series. It returned $3 billion in seigniorage, he states, to the Treasury coffers from the total sales over the ten-year period. I don't doubt that figure, but it is the first time I have seen it in print.

He would like to see a return of Lady Liberty to standardize our coin designs and hold to that design for at least a decade. "It was once common to portray Liberty," he wrote, "personified in female form, on our coins. Imagine the return of this figure, grown wiser and reflective after her absence, evoking confidence that our nation will endure any hardship and meet any challenge. Then, maybe our coins will once again become respected national symbols."

I concur, but I was offput by the Times headline, "Change We Don't Need." I was expecting a directive to abolish the cent after 2010. It's okay to make a $3 billion profit from U.S. citizens off of quarters, but it is not okay to save $300 million a year to abolish an unnecessary cent?

Be that as it may, it was an excellent editorial. Take a bow, Michael.

Thanks to Dick for pointing out this great editorial - I have to agree that the pendulum has swung too far - all these new circulating issues are confusing even for those of us in the hobby, and I know many of my noncollecting friends and family members are lost when it comes to knowing what all the issues are and what they look like. Zielinski makes some good points. See below for some excerpts from his editorial.

As for eliminating the cent, I wouldn't be surprised to see it happen one day, but old habits are hard to break and human nature is never on the side of change. A week ago I was on the road traveling to visit family and before heading out of town I stopped in a nearby supermarket to satisfy a craving for a donut, as if my butt didn't take up enough room in the driver's seat already. I picked out a nice glazed donut and headed to the self-checkout, another one of those newfangled things old geezers like me find a pain.

The sale rang up at 59 cents. I put two quarters and a dime into the coin slot, and the machine rounded it up to 60 cents and said thank you very much. I said "Where's my penny!!? I want my penny!! Gimme my g*dd*amn penny, you miserable &*&%$#!!" -Editor
By now we are experiencing new coin fatigue: authorization of the national parks quarter series attracted very little mainstream attention, while many coin collectors disapproved of it as too much of a good thing.

These critics have a point. This year we have even more coin programs featuring rotating designs. For Lincolnís 200th birthday, four different reverse (tails) designs were produced for the penny. American Indians will be honored with a new series of dollar coins. And six quarters will be issued featuring the District of Columbia as well as the territories of Guam, American Samoa, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands.

As a result of all this, this year we will have more coin series with rotating designs than series with permanent designs. We may find ourselves thankful for the constancy of the Jefferson nickel, the Roosevelt dime and the Kennedy half-dollar, which is no longer even issued for circulation.

Coins are a medium of exchange. They should be relatively standard, universally identifiable units of money. On a deeper level, coins are also representations of the country that issues them. Our currency has become a shifting, unidentifiable mess that tries to recognize everything and ends up symbolizing nothing.

The best remedy would simply be to overhaul all our standard coin designs. Redesign each denomination across the board, and leave the new designs in place for at least a decade. These redesigned coins should be contemporary in nature but timeless in theme, and unmistakable objects of art.

To read the complete article, see: Change We Donít Need (www.nytimes.com/2009/05/21/opinion/21Zeilinski.html)



Wayne Homren, Editor

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