Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Failed Coinage

How does the saying go? December showers bring January... nothing really, unless the ground is still damp enough to freeze solid. It rained much of the night last night and much of the day today, leaving large puddles in our back yard and an even larger one in our neighbor's back yard. A cold rain, but not an icy one. It felt like a slice of March broke lose and lodged here in mid-December. I like it, but it can mean only one thing: a few rounds of blizzard in the not-too-distant future.

I was bummed to read that the number of presidential coins minted going forward is going to be slashed. That's two of my favorite things, coins and presidents, in one package. But I have to say that I haven't gotten around to collecting any of the presidential dollars, either in circulating or proof condition. On those few occasions when I get cash from a human teller at a bank, I ask for dollar coins (and sometimes $2 bills), and usually they have some presidentials along with Sacagaweas and even Susan B. Anthony pieces. Then I go out and circulate them.

I don't actually want to see the $1 bill discontinued, since it's iconic, but I don't mind using dollar coins, either. I'd go for U.S. $2 coins, too, as long as the $1 and $2 pieces were distinctive enough, like the Canadian loonie and toonie.

In an idle moment today I rummaged through the container where I keep the small change of other nations that I've accumulated over the years, and it occurred to me -- since I've been writing some about the problems of the euro lately -- that I have some defunct currency in that container. At the moment there are 17 euro-zone nations, and I found bits of the former currencies of nine of those countries in my possession, ten if you count 1 pataca from Portuguese Macao, all as worthless as car-wash tokens from car washes that have gone out of business.

Besides the pataca, the others include: 1 DM, 20 French centimes, 100 Italian lira, 1 Dutch guilder, 10 Belgian francs, 1 Austrian schilling, 1 Finnish mark, 20 Estonian senti and 50 drachma. All collected in their countries of origin, except for that drachma. While in St. Petersburg, Russia, we stayed in a guesthouse with WCs down the hall. One time I went to use the bathroom, and there sitting on top of the tank was a 50 drachma coin.

Mostly copper, between the size of a quarter and a half-dollar, and minted in 1988, the coin sports an image of Homer on one side, a trireme on the other. It's a nice piece of money. Bet the Greeks are missing their drachma something fierce about now.

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