Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Chester Arthur isn't worth a $1?

The Treasury Department announced that it will cease making $1 coins after minting one portraying our 20th president, James A. Garfield. Of course, his successor via assassination, Chester A. Arthur will not enjoy the honor of a presidential coin. Perhaps conspiracy theorists will

speculate that this is some sort of payback for Arthur's complicity in the questions raised over our current president's citizenship. But the simple fact is Americans don't use the $1 coin and it has no place in our pockets, change cups, and cash registers. I admit I am guilty of this myself. The metallic images of Presidents Washington, Jefferson, and Hayes have a permanent residence in my desk draw with a commemorative token from Buffalo Bill's grave in Golden, Colorado and some sort of Soviet coin with Lenin's image and the dates 1870-1970 that my uncle smuggled back from a 1980s trip to the USSR (and yes, that was during the height of the "spy dust" years, if one recalls that Cold War news nugget). They haven't even made their way to my modest coin collection to cozy up to Susan B. Anthony, yet another $1 coin fiasco. My Irish grandmother made sure I received a freshly minted one as my interest history was already evident in 1979. I added it to my currency collection which then consisted of a couple of buffalo back

nickels and a $2 bill that I received on my birthday and never spent. I still have the $2 bill and the Susan B. Anthony dollar, and right there you can see I have taken $6 whole dollars permanently out of circulation. As a tax payer I am glad that we will no longer waste money creating a product that the public-at-large does not want or use. The historian in me, however, wishes they would have realized this a bit later, after coins bearing the images of the Gilded Age presidents could be minted and, to use a not quite appropriate term, circulated. Perhaps it would have stimulated some interest among some Americans in the Gilded Age and its bearded and mustached chief executives. Theodore Roosevelt would have been a good breaking point. After all, I would think Mount Rushmore would more than compensate for his not being on a coin.

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