Spare Some Change?

Joe Lavin's Humor Column

Spare Some Change?

February 23, 2001

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From the creators of the Susan B. Anthony coin that nobody wanted or used comes another coin that nobody seems to want -- the Sacagawea golden dollar. The US Mint recently announced that one billion of these coins are now in circulation, which is exactly 999,999,996 more than I've seen over the last year. Where are these one billion dollars? Has anyone seen them? Quick! Everyone check behind the sofa cushions, because I think almost a billion dollars of coins have gone missing.

For over a year, the Mint has been promoting this coin, but so far it's not catching on. Hoping to boost circulation, the Mint even arranged for Wal-Mart to hand them out as change. Apparently, though, it never occurred to any of the Wal-Mart customers that they could actually spend the coins. ("Oooh, look at the shiny money! We can't spend the shiny money.") Instead, most have been hoarding the coins, and few golden dollars have even made it into other stores.

Personally, I was looking forward to using the coin, so I'm a little disappointed. I'm sick of digging out my wallet for every piddling purchase I make and would love to use a dollar coin instead. Granted, I may be the only one. Most Americans seem perfectly content with the dollar bill and want nothing to do with a coin. It's probably no accident that the Mint never really asked anyone if they wanted this coin. I doubt the Mint would have liked the answer. Nevertheless, if we're going to have a dollar coin, I would like the chance to use it.

And so I've been searching for Sacagawea, but with little success. A few weeks back, I even tried to get some of them at my bank. It seemed a sensible plan. After all, that's where they keep the money, but the teller looked at me as if I was asking for the currency of Kazakhstan. "Uh, I dunno. You might check downstairs," she told me. When I went downstairs, another teller told me that the bank didn't have the dollar coins and had no idea when they would be getting any.

"Hello? You're a bank," I wanted to scream. "How can you not have these coins?" It's not as if I had come to the bank asking for tuna fish. All I wanted was some US currency. I suppose other banks might have the coins in stock, but frankly I'm afraid to ask.

Eventually, I decided to continue my search online. I ended up at the US Mint's web site, which offers free shipping on all golden dollars. It sounds like a great deal, but there's only one problem. The Mint is selling a roll of 25 golden Sacagawea dollars for -- get this -- $35.50. Wow, it's great to see that the kids who used to extort my lunch money at school are now gainfully employed at the US Mint. Since when did $25 suddenly cost $35.50? The Mint is also selling a bag of 2,000 golden dollars for only $2,180. If you ask me, the people behind this deserve a serious promotion. Let's send them up to the very highest echelons of government. With their skills, I'm sure they could eliminate the national debt in no time.

When I saw the price they were charging, I had but one thought: Hey, I can beat that price! And so as a special offer to subscribers of this column, I'll send $25 to anyone who sends me $30. That's right. You send me $30 in the mail, and you'll immediately get $25 back. That's a savings of over 15% off what the government charges. Act now, and I'll also throw in free shipping and handling. And if you send me just $2,100, I'll gladly send you $2,000 back. I'll even express mail it. Because, after all, I care.

Eventually, I started to wonder just how much a golden dollar is really worth. Naturally, I checked eBay. There, I found several golden dollars and discovered that they aren't worth very much at all. One poor soul put a golden dollar up for auction, and the winning bid was just 25 cents. In another auction, the dollar coin could only fetch 55 cents. I guess it must be true that nobody wants these coins when they're not even worth a dollar on eBay.

This was all a bit disconcerting. Perhaps I'm na´ve, but I had always assumed that one dollar costs, well, one dollar. Just for kicks, I'm thinking of taking a crumpled dollar bill out of my wallet and auctioning it off on eBay. ("Rare! One of a kind! Only dollar bill with this serial number!") Will my dollar bill be worth a dollar? Or will I be lucky just to make back fifty cents on it?

At any rate, this could be the start of a whole new trend -- discounted money. "What? You paid a dollar for that bill? Are you crazy? I never pay full price for money!" Perhaps, in the future, only fools will pay full price for their money. Of course, that would be a definite improvement, since right now the fools are paying $35.50 for a $25 roll of coins.

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©2001 Joe Lavin