Reagan Currency

(Los Angeles, California) Ron England has amassed 3.6 tons of copper in his garage in the Los Angeles suburb of Granada Hills after making a bet with his brother 30 years ago that he could collect 1 million pennies. But neither the U.S. Mint, the U.S. Comptroller of the Currency, coin collectors nor the local bank is interested in cashing in his stash — at least not without a charge. (Reuters)
It is proposed that Ronald Reagan be remembered -- in addition to having roads and bridges, parks and airports in every county named for him -- by placing his likeness on a denomination of federal currency. The one drawback to this idea is that all the spots on U.S. cash are already taken. Putting President Reagan on a coin or bill would require eliminating a personage already there.

However, the desire to commemorate the former president by having his likeness on legal tender need not be achieved at the expense of earlier heroes, such as Alexander Hamilton and Andrew Jackson. Partisans of these worthies (even of Samuel P. Chase) are digging in their heels already for what promises to be a nasty fight. It would be regrettable to have the memorably cheerful chief executive associated with unnecessary unpleasantness when there is an alternative plan that will not only salute President Reagan, but also help the nation to solve a pressing problem: namely, what to do about the costly and nearly valueless one-cent coin.

Penny-anti campaigns have foundered in the past largely because those Americans who most frequently come into contact with the specie -- convenience store workers and others in primarily cash businesses -- have been found in studies to be confounded by the concept of rounding off. Rather than subject 7-11's customers to endless arguments over the amount of change due them, the government has chosen to keep the coins circulating, this despite the fact that, as the tragedy of poor Ron England reveals, no one wants them. Besides, as inflation continues its relentless course even in the best of times, soon enough there will come a day when pennypinchers will begin fingering the "useless" one dollar bill instead.

A Reagan currency presents an unparalleled opportunity to pay tribute to the popular leader in a way that honors him as a creative and forward-looking chief executive while achieving the fix for the penny problem that has eluded federal accountants for decades. In addition, this proposal will forever hang the president's portrait on the wall of innovation: The Ronald Reagan $14.99 bill.

Reagan paper will be a boon in the retail marketplace (what to call it -- the gipper? the ronnie? -- must be left to the collective decision of its users). For merchandise that has a sticker not matching the denomination, buying higher-priced items will be simple and mathematically fool proof: for $19.99, add a five; $24.99, add ten; $34.99: hand over a Jackson and a Reagan. No muss, no fuss and, most important, no change. For items less than $10, the gipper (for now) would be even more consumer-friendly. Use a gipper for an item priced at $9.99, get a fin back; use it to buy something costing $4.99 and get a sawbuck as change.

Besides lessening the reliance on pennies, which have become so useless that store owners leave bowls of them by cash registers and they can be found in stacks by pay phones, the gipper would save countless employee hours now consumed by making change and tallying, reconciling and wrapping Lincolns at end-of-shift. As gippers become more common, retailers will be encouraged to convert more prices to the $**.99 standard, further extending its benefits. Once the gipper's usefulness is demonstrated, in those jurisdictions where sales tax is a fact of life many merchandisers will be inspired to include the levy in the price of goods, conveniencing consumers even more.

Of course, not everything can be priced $**.99, and the gipper is not proposed as a total solution to the penny problem. But if it does its job, the need for pennies will be vastly reduced. Who knows, someday the Lincoln copper coin might be so rare it will be worth something again.

Your Picture on the Dollar Bill

Facing what it says could be budget gaps of more than $1 billion in the coming years, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the keeper of the region's mass transit system, is exploring selling naming rights to its subway stations, bus lines, bridges and tunnels. (New York Times 2004-07-27)

Governments at every level are thinking creatively about revenue enhancements.

More needs to be done, however, if the goal is to be achieved of liberating all Americans from all taxation for all time.

Kudos to the U.S. Mint, therefore, for its very profitable 50 State Quarters® program. As the agency points out, "the cost to manufacture a quarter is about 5 cents, providing a profit of approximately 20 cents per coin. Mint profits go to the general fund of the U.S. Treasury to help fund U.S. Government operations, reduce the need for new or higher taxes, and reduce the Federal Government's debt."

Taking nothing away from the 50 State Quarters® Program, but despite its $1 billion plus annual profits the Mint is missing some serious revenue opportunities by not being equally creative with paper money. It costs 5 cents to issue a quarter. It costs 6 cents to print a bill. You do the math.

Collectors, with their high level of passion, would go wild for new bills. Don't think they're passionate?: Look how excited they got when their favorite commodity made its biggest headlines in decades last fall by going peach in an effort to thwart counterfeiters.

As a beginning, action by the Mint could help to head off the fight over whether Ronald Reagan should replace Andrew Jackson on the ten dollar bill. Since the only really important thing about money is its value, no one really cares whose mug is next to the number. Why not put them both on the same bill thus creating an instant collectors' item?

Or have split runs, and not only between Jackson and Reagan: Share the $10 among all the presidents. Imagine what the Treasury could rake in on a 43 President Bills® series: "43 unique $10 bills. Collect them all!"

It'd make the quarters look like small change.

In fact, the U.S. Postal Service has been busy demonstrating what can be achieved with products aimed at collectors. In the face of declining demand for postal services, due mostly to the rise of e-mail and other electronic means of transmitting information, the post office continues to exist primarily as a publisher of stamps. And if Zora Neale Hurston and Buckminster Fuller can motivate people to purchase stamps, think of what they will do for a commodity that, PayPal not withstanding, still has utility.

The late Senator Everett Dirksen would have been right if he actually had said that "a billion here, a billion there, pretty soon it adds up to real money": the potential for truly dramatic increases in revenue resides not in selling a few billion dollars in collectors' editions, but in the vastly greater sums that can be generated by advertising.

Think, for example, of what it would be worth to the Dollar Store if a dollar bill carried a list of all the things that could be bought there. Imagine the impact on the boutique coffee market if $10 bills became known not as sawbucks but as starbucks. Or a twenty dollar bill could be printed to resemble a voucher from Loews, where it would be good for an admission, a medium popcorn and an Endless Cup.

Possibilities are endless here, too. Microsoft may be motivated to lease distribution rights to the $100, if only as a first step to copyrighting it. People with enough dough will surely want to rent space on bills as a variation on vanity license plates. As a contest come-on, "Your Picture on the Dollar Bill" would be irresistible. Short, colorful, carefully timed runs inevitably will be used to promote movies, television shows, albums and -- combining marketing ploys -- Presidents' Day sales.

The Treasury might even be able to make a little extra income on the side by selling, at a premium, advertising-free currency to people outraged by the whole idea.

In short, the government is uniquely positioned to reinvigorate an old adage by revising it into a slogan: 'it makes money to make money.'

This article was published by The Citizen Journal.
Related Posts with Thumbnails