FOR MORE than ten years I have been studying the future development of the coins and coin denominations of the United States. Our coinage system and the coins themselves drastically need revision. But the institutions which have the power to change our coins have been hesitant to act and we face the most inept situation in that two of our coins now cost more than their face value to make!
At present we have a situation where the zinc industry is lobbying Congress to retain the one cent coin, even though it has passed its time as a viable coin of commerce. The cent coin needs to be abolished, like Canada has done earlier this year. The cent denomination will still exist, transactions can still be made in cents and dollars, it is just the final amount will be rounded off to eliminate any necessary payment of cent coins.
What is needed is to study our entire coinage system with an unbiased view, establish a well thought-out plan, and have this vetted by all organizations and institutions which have an interest in the outcome.
Better yet, invite these organizations to have a part in forming that basic plan. They could be represented on a committee to study and make recommendations for what coin denominations the U.S. Mint should manufacture – and their characterizes.
One of the fields of American commerce with the greatest activity in circulating coins is the vending machine industry. Their trade association would be ideal to be involved in determining what coins would be best for future circulation.
As a numismatist, I would recommend a numismatic association as well. This is important because there are forces in existence at present which desire to replace coins where all transactions are electronic transfer of payments. This would be a death knell for the hobby of coin collecting which needs new coins issued every year, if only a change of date or mintmark.
I won’t say numismatics is at a crossroad. But it is a serious situation, which, if not confronted, could lead to the elimination of modern coins. (We would still have ‘old coins” to collect, but new issues keep new people entering the field, as evidenced by the Statehood Quarter series.)
What I propose is to establish a study group – a Committee for Determining America’s Future Coins. The committee would do some creative “think tank” reasoning. Then make a report of their recommendations.
The recommendations can be as specific as metal formulas for coin compositions to reconfiguring new cash registers of the future – where perhaps no one touches the coins, the machine does all that. To perhaps, embedding a microchip in high value coins which records, say, the last ten transactions.
We are in a new century. We need not utilize last century’s coinage system. Below is a letter I have written to the new executive director of the ANA to initiate the formation of this Committee.
An Open Letter to Jeff Shevlin, ANA Executive Director
Jeff Shevlin, Executive Director
American Numismatic Association
818 N. Cascade Avenue
Colorado Springs, CO 80903
There are very strong forces in existence today that if allowed to continue will ultimately abolish the need and use of coins. Namely, the electronic transfer of money. If we are to see the continued use of coins in the future – of viable coin denominations, the continuance of our hobby with new coin issues, and the sheer existence of numismatics! – there are some actions that must be taken fairly quickly to ensure the abolishment of coin issuing will never happen.
Fortunately we have a strong ally, the vending machine industry. While this industry has continued with inadequate coin denominations – and plagued with problems of paper currency in their machines – they are one of the greatest users of coins in our economy. We assume they would want to continue to use coins in preference to any other system of collecting payments for the small transactions generated by their vending machines.
Therefore I propose the ANA, as the largest coin association, join forces with the largest trade association of the vending machine industry for the purpose studying what coins – denominations and specifications – would be the most viable for future use in America. In effect, establish a Committee for Determining America’s Future Coins.
This committee would determine not only what coin denominations are necessary, but also their specifications – composition, diameter, thickness and such. Further, it could make suggestions as to design but the basic factors are the important considerations since designs can change often.
Organizations which have an influence in Future Coins should be represented on this committee:
- ANA – two members
- Vending Trade Association – two members
- U.S. Treasury Department – one member
- U.S. Congress – one member
- U.S Mint – one member
- Futurist Society – one member.
There is one person whose credentials recommend him to be the chairman of this committee. That person is François Velde. He has written a book on the subject of small coins in world coinage systems and is currently Chief Economist, Chicago Federal Reserve Bank.
For ANA to join with a trade association of the vending machine industry to sponsor such a committee would benefit both fields. It would benefit the numismatic field by insuring the continued, well planned, use of coins far into the future. It would benefit the vending machine field by giving them the most useful coin denominations and a time schedule to reconfigure their machines for the most efficient use in the future.
Heretofore the Treasury has made coin decisions on one situation or crisis at a time. This should be replaced by an overall established plan for the most efficient coinage system covering any circumstance in the future. This should eliminate such actions as issuing a dollar coin near the same diameter as a quarter. Or the continued manufacture of cents and nickels costing more to make than their face value.
Can you make an arrangement with the vending machine trade association to form such a committee?
D. Wayne Johnson
D. Wayne Johnson,
Corporate Historian, Medallic Art Co