Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Dollar Days

It made my day when I saw that the editor didn’t cut out the verb “to Eisenhower” in this article of mine. Keen readers of the article will notice certain similarities with an item published here a week and a half ago – in that case, blogging was a kind of run-up for the Slatin Report article, with the critical difference that I will be paid for the latter.

Maybe the verb “Eisenhower” ought to be reserved for “overseeing an amphibious invasion to break the grip of a murderous tyranny on the western part of a continental landmass,” but really, how often does that come up? It’s much more common to see the bland remodeling efforts of 1950s (or so, it lasted longer than that decade) reflected in buildings even now. An unfair label, maybe, but his administration is popularly remembered as bland as well, so it fits.

So was his dollar. Occasionally I’ve shown one of my handful of Eisenhower dollars to people younger than I am, and they usually had no clue such a thing was made from 1971 to 1978. As well they shouldn’t. It was every bit the failure that the Susan B. Anthony dollar would be later, except that it lasted a little longer, and that it was an attempt to resurrect a silver-dollar-sized coin, the likes of which hadn’t been minted since the Depression. The result was an enormous, heavy disk of copper-nickel clad featuring the least interesting portrait of Eisenhower imaginable on the obverse: a bald fellow in profile. Besides that, by the 1970s, a dollar didn’t have the serious purchasing power that it did before the 1930s, so it was ridiculous in that way too.

The reverse, however, was a good design -- an eagle landing on the Moon (except for the bicentennial coin of ’76, which oddly paired the Liberty Bell with the Moon). The eagle-and-moon carried over onto the SBA dollar reverse, and if it had been up to me they would be on the Sacagawea dollar too.

I’m fond of the idea of a dollar coin, but it’ll never take off as long as we have a paper note worth a dollar. Which, at least until its purchasing power is practically nothing, we should hang on to, because the dollar bill is more than a bit of currency, it’s an icon. Lesser economies can retire their one-whatever notes, but retire the George Washington dollar bill? That's a stand-in for the entire economy. Losing it would be a psychological hit along the lines of making the penny out of aluminum.


At 10:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Eisenhowered" and "landmarking" -- both interesting terms. MT


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