Dollars for Presidents

Have you heard about it? Starting next year, a series of circulating “golden” dollar coins will begin, eventually featuring all US presidents. Mint director Edmund Moy gushes over them:

“These designs are beautiful and so eye-catching that a lot of Americans are going to do a double take when they get them in their change the first time.”


If you say so.

Personally, I find the goddess of liberty eye-catching, if not beautiful. First lady of president #22/24 would be a better model for hundreds of millions of coins, but I’ll get to that bit later.

The US Mint shows and tells you about the design, which will include these features:

– Each year will feature four presidents. By the time we get to late 20th century/21st century presidents, the office holder must be deceased for two years before appearing on a future coin.

– The date, mint mark, and mottos E Pluribus Unum and In God We Trust have been moved to the edge of the coin.

– In place of the word, “Liberty” a bottom-up angled view of the New Jersey statue will grace the reverse side of the coin.

The mint also has another companion series starting up:

In addition to its recognition of the Presidents on $1 coins, the United States is honoring the First Spouses through the issuance of uncirculated and proof one-half ounce 24-karat gold $10 coins emblematic of the spouse of each President during that President’s term of service. The United States Mint will issue these coins under the same yearly release schedule as their corresponding Presidential $1 coins. These 24-karat gold coins generally will have an obverse image of the First Spouse and a reverse image symbolic of that particular First Spouse’s life and work.

I notice that two-termer Grover Cleveland gets two coins because of his non-consecutive terms. I can’t applaud that development, even if he was a New Yorker. He was the 22nd president. And according to the series, he was the 24th president. But it might be more accurate to say he was the 22nd man to be president, put both his terms on one coin, and list William McKinley, his second successor, as the 24th man to be president.

The only upside to this I see is that Frances Folsom Cleveland will appear on two gold coins, instead of just one.

I plan on collecting those two.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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6 Responses to Dollars for Presidents

  1. I agree with you; this is gimmicky.

    We used to have really fine coinage in this country, but it has been debased, in every sense.

    Perhaps you can explain this to me, as I know very little about such matters: would it really be out of reach to issue a silver-clad coin into circulation? I realize the price of silver makes silver dimes and quarters untenable; what about a silver dollar? If that won’t work, how about a silver-clad $5 dollar coin? A solid-silver $10 coin?

    I realize few would actually use a silver $5 or $10 piece, but it would be a real coin, real money, not simply fiat money.

    For that matter, I wish the government would issue a gold coin with a face value corresponding to the value of gold — maybe a $100 coin (not solid gold) could be managed, or a solid-gold coin at something like $500 — but that would, in effect, place us on a gold standard. That doesn’t bother me, but I am not up on all the economics arguments; I am merely skeptical of those who say, “can’t be done.” My instinct is to say, “oh yes it can; if we want to.”

    And then, of course, bring back walking Liberty, the buffalo, Mercury, the profile of the Indian or Indigenous American. I don’t believe we’ve seen their equal in recent decades.

  2. Fr Fox, part of the issue is the volatility of precious metal values. Even more, would be the collectibility of such coins. An uncirculated silver or gold multi-dollar coin would far exceed face value. I can tell you that if I found one such coin in change, it would head for a protective folder in my den.

    A third factor: US citizens prefer the convenience of paper money. I use and spend halves and dollar coins regularly, but I don’t keep too many in my pocket. More often, I keep them in the car’s changebox and take a few with me when I go to an eatery or bar to use for tipping.

    They would work, but only if the US government withdrew the more popular paper money denominations. Historically, the large denomination gold coins and silver dollars never circulated as much as smaller coins.

    Technically, all the silver, gold, and platinum special coinage the US Mint produces can be used as legal tender. I’ve never known anybody to do that, though.

  3. Liam says:

    I am not thrilled, even if John Adams finally gets on a coin.

    I am with Fr Fox about preferring our pre-1932 coinage. I also think we made a mistake having our coinage remain in relative stasis after 1932.

    The designs being produced now seem to deliberately avoid the “classic” styles of a century ago. For example, the decision to use the 3/4 reverse profile of Sacagawea (ostensibly due to her child) instead of a beatiful classic profile that was one of the four final designs.

    Many of the current quarter reverses are banal or comical. Of the Lewis & Clark nickel series, only one (with the bison) is beautiful; the rest are banal at best.

    It’s like Wal-Mart is charged with designing our coinage. Feh!

  4. Susan says:

    The real problem is weight.

    In the UK, a pound coin is instantly recognizable in one’s pocket, without sight, because it is so thick and so HEAVY. Therefore there is no danger of confusing it with a 20 pence piece (similar in size) or with any other coin.

    I hate all the dollar coins we’ve come up with so far (since the demise of the silver dollar of my childhood) because when I’m in a hurry or in poor light I can’t readily tell it from a quarter. No, that goofy “gold” color does not do the job.

  5. Mike says:

    I love the UK pound coin. That’s the, you should forgive the expression, gold standard for coins.

  6. Catholicsensibility:

    Well, what I was proposing was to coin something in gold or silver that did not far exceed face value, as the mint currently does.

    I.e., put $3 of silver into a $5 coin. I fully realize it wouldn’t get much circulation, but it would be a real store of value. I.e., it would be money instead of currency. They would be meaningful hedges against inflation (which is why the government doesn’t do it).

    More stable and meaningful would be gold coins, because that would, in effect, put us on a gold standard.

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