Today was the day. February 15, 2007. The official launch of the new Presidential $1 Dollar Coins, with the introduction of the first coin, the George Washington dollar. My original review of this program is still one of my most popular posts of all time.
The New York Times had suprisingly good coverage today.
I have covered the program in detail in earlier posts, but there were a few tidbits here that I thought were worth calling out.
First, huge rolls of sheet metal from outside suppliers are unwound into a machine that stamps out blanks, called planchets. Each planchet is squeezed between rollers to give it a raised rim and then softened by heating. Then it is burnished and coated, to produce the highly polished look.
The planchets are then fed into a press that applies over 80 metric tons of pressure, firing like a car engine to turn out as many as 750 coins a minute. The freshly minted dollars are carted to another machine where the edge lettering is pressed into them (right side up or upside down, at random) before being weighed, counted and poured into large Kevlar bags ready for shipping.
Did you notice the part that said right side up or upside down, at random? Now, that’s an ingredient for some additional collectibility. The “Edge-Incused Lettering” is one of the new features of the coin, allowing more space on the coin for bigger images, and a unique look and edge feel. If the lettering is applied at random, then the following variants will exist:
- Lettering facing the front of the coin (Presidential image)
- Lettering facing the back of the coin (Liberty)
I checked the US Mint website, incredulous that I had missed this detail. Sure enough, I found this quote:
These coins will feature edge-incused inscriptions of the year of minting or issuance, “E Pluribus Unum,” “In God We Trust” and the mint mark. Due to the minting process used on the circulating coins, the edge-incused inscription positions will vary with each coin.
Reading this, it sounds like the lettering will not even start at the same place on every coin. Maybe some of the coins will have text starting at the top of the portrait, others might have text rotated 90 degrees. Will this important to collectors? I’m not sure, but I would think in my mind that a perfect coin would have lettering that started with the top of the portrait.
Maybe this is a sign that I’m a little too detail oriented with coins.
I also thought the New York Times had some good detail on the costs of coins vs. bills, with some new information I hadn’t seen before:
- It costs $0.20 to make a coin, but only $0.04 to make a bill
- A bill lasts 18-22 months, a coin lasts 30 years
- It seems that the issuance of bills vs. coins has some difference in treatment with the issuance of securities to back the currency. As a result, the US collects interest on the float from bills, but not on coins (this didn’t make sense to me, but this part wasn’t written clearly).
Actually, I had a new idea on the whole bill vs. coin debate. Why don’t we have a special election on whether or not eliminate the bill in favor of the coin, with these rules:
- People who want the bill, if they are in the majority, agree to a small tax increase to cover the $500 Million a year to support it. This tax increase will only be levied against the people who voted to keep the bill.
- People who don’t want the bill, if they are in the majority, will receive a tax deduction matching the savings from eliminating the bill. Only people who vote against the bill will receive the deduction.
- People who don’t vote won’t receive the tax or the deduction.
My guess is that people who want the bill aren’t actually willing to pay for it.