The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 13, Number 35, August 29, 2010, Article 9


Dick Johnson submitted these post-convention thoughts on the future of coinage. -Editor

I had an epiphany standing on the bourse floor of the ANA Boston convention two weeks ago. I had just purchased a pizza for a midday snack. Cost I believe was $7.40. I had a desire to accept the dollars in change, but a feeling came over I did not want the coins in change.

Then it hit me. I was in the midst of the world's largest market place for coin transactions -- millions of dollars changing hands for old and rare coins all round me while I bit into my pizza -- yet somehow I did not want the coins in change for a current cash transaction. I didn't want to be bothered, I was anxious to get back to my bourse area. What if everyone in their daily life had a similar rejection of coins for any reason -- their low value, the inconvenience of waiting for the coins to be counted and handed over, or whatever.

It would be the death of coins. So many factors are moving the world in this direction. The rise in the use first of checks, then credit cards, and now a plethora of payment methods, debt cards, wire transfers, PayPal, internet transfers, and such.

You can recognize a trend here. As collectors and numismatists we should take every measure to insure that coins will exist in the future. That means increasing their usefulness, now and forever. If not and the use of coins will decline -- ultimately to be eliminated entirely -- there will be no coins to collect in the future. That would be the death knell of popular coin collecting and numismatics would become a dead science, perhaps like the study of clay tablets.

As numismatists we must recognize the strengths of coins and their usefulness in small cash transactions. We should recognize this, promote their use, and advocate their benefits in every way.

Here are some suggestions to further the continued existence of coins into the future:

1. Eliminate small denominations. For the United States, eliminate the cent and nickel. The economic value of these coins has diminished. Canada is about ready to abolish their cent coin. Other countries already have abolished one or two coin denominations. To continue their use just infuriates citizens. Let the dime be the smallest coin in circulation. In time the half dollar will be the smallest coin in circulation as our economy advances.

2. Create coins of higher denomination. Strike coins of $5, $10 and $20 denominations. As you eliminate two denominations on the low end, add two denominations on the high end. A study was made once of the optimum number of denominations to facilitate cash transactions -- that number was five. Maybe that is why there are five compartments in cash registers.

3. Resize and correct compositions of new coins. It was brilliant for the U.S. Treasury to make the dollar coin smaller and lighter than the earlier silver dollar. Make the dollar coin size now the standard, make a half dollar and a dime each succeedingly smaller (the quarter will be eliminated once the nickel is gone). Make each new $5, $10 and $20 coin succeeding larger. These high value coins could return to the use of silver without fear the cost of their base metal rising to exceed their face value.

4. Partner with the vending machine industry. Here is an entire industry that exists on the use of coins. It is believed they would welcome larger denomination coins. One report stated that 90% of vending machine problems are the use of paper currency in their machines. If everyone used higher valued coins this could eliminate the acceptance problems of paper currency. But since it is costly to reconfigure every machine, this would have to be a long range project. Learn what the vending machine industry would prefer and have the numismatic field join with them in advocating a unified coin system.

5. The American Numismatic Association should adopt a committee for the study of future coins and partner with other groups to plan for the use and manner of coins in the future. If not, we stand the chance coins could be abolished. Not a pleasant thought for a coin enthusiast.


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Wayne Homren, Editor

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