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The E-Sylum: Volume 13, Number 7, February 14, 2010, Article 15

COMMENTS ON DICK JOHNSON'S OPEN LETTER ON COINAGE

Joe Boling writes:

Dick Johnson's open letter was fine until he got to the dimensions of his proposed coins. None of his intended recipients will have a clue what 20mm or 35mm looks like, and all will stop reading right there. They also won't know what "clad" means. In my opinion, each of his dimensions is 5mm too large - start at 15mm, not 20mm. The present dollar coins, at 27mm, are closer to 25mm than they are to 30mm. That 50mm behemoth is not usable. As for copper nickel and nickel being distinguishable by color - only through rose-colored glasses.

Joe was the only one to comment on the letter, and I shared his note with Dick, who follows up with these comments. -Editor

I left a lot of things unsaid in my proposed U.S. coinage schedule published in last week's E-Sylum as an open letter to government officials. The most obvious -- and this is what I expected Good Friend and my most vocal critic Joe Boling to question -- what about quarters?

Quarters are a base 5, a multiple of 5, and as such do not fit in a scheme of base 10 where every coin denomination and transaction amount is divisible by 10. As such quarters, like the cent and nickel, are destined to being abolished. But not so quick for quarters. For cents and nickels, the sooner the better.

I proposed a time table that extended for ten years. In that time I was certain American inventiveness and engineering could come up with a new dime. America would need a dedicated plant -- a mint -- for the exclusive purpose of striking and manufacturing a single product, a ceramic coated aluminum dime. In that ten-year period we would need a lot of half dollars, and here is were I saw using quarters in tandem being used to full extent. If the plant is in production in less than a decade, the quarters could be abolished earlier.

Buy why a ceramic-aluminum dime? Reasons: (1) aluminum is plentiful, (2) it is cheap, as compared to other coinage metals, (3) it is easily coined. But because of these reasons aluminum alone is easily counterfeited. Thus the need for a second composition that makes counterfeiting difficult if not impossible.

Ceramic is ideal. It is the coating on capsules as a heat shield, hard and impervious to extremes of pressure and heat. Also we have some experience in the use of ceramic in a related field to coining -- the manufacture of buttons! So engineers could adapt the technology from two fields: space age technology and button manufacturing technology. Engineers would have to solve the problem of how to bond the ceramic surface to a partially coined aluminum disc. Just the thought of that should deter wannabe counterfeiters.

The smooth ceramic surface would appear on one side of the dime -- imprint it in color if you wish -- with a relief image of the aluminum on the other side. This makes an ideal coin which meets all necessary criteria of low cost for a low denomination coin, and other customary criteria of coins as: recognizability, vending machine suitability, hardness, somewhat low weight, national image, value and lettering -- and longevity. Such coins should last in circulation longer than the average 22 years of a typical coinage composition.

Joe Boling made a good point I didn't - my metric dimensions. So here 'tis:

  • Dime -- 0.7874-inch (20mm) Ceramic coated aluminum.
  • Half Dollar -- 0.98425-inch (25mm) Bronze coated zinc.
  • Dollar Coin -- 1.1811-inch (30mm) Copper nickel clad bronze with security edge.
  • $5 Coin -- 1.37795-inch (35mm) Nickel clad copper nickel alloy with security edge.
  • $10 Coin -- 1.5748-inch (40mm) Silver clad copper nickel alloy with microchip.
  • $20 Coin -- 1.77165-inch (45mm) Silver clad nickel with microchip and other security devices
  • $50 Coin -- 1.9685-inch (50mm) Coinage silver alloy with microchip and other security devices.

Joe complained the $50 coin is too big. If I am going to carry a coin worth $50 I would want it sizeable. Remember these are coins for modest cash transactions. Paper money and electronic payments would still exist for large transactions.

But what would Joe say for the $100 coin? It would be larger than 2 1/8-inches -- 55mm -- 2.16535-inch. Ditto.

Joe also didn't question the recalling of the cents and nickels at the end of that ten-year period. I will get into that next week. Hit me with your best questions, Joe (and anyone else who wants to step up to the plate).

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: AN OPEN LETTER TO CONGRESS, THE TREASURY AND MINT OFFICIALS (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v13n06a16.html)

Wayne Homren, Editor

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