Wednesday, July 16, 2014

We Need Some New Money

As a non-numismatic American, you may not realize it, but our country has one of the most boring currencies out there. Here are some of the problems:

  • Age – All of our basic coin designs are at least 50 years old: penny (1909), nickel (1939), dime (1946), quarter (1931), half dollar (1964). Same goes for the dollar bill (1923). Our other bills look much better with their recent updates, but their basic designs are just as old.
  • Busyness – By law, each coin must include “liberty,” “in God we trust,” “e pluribus unum,” and “United States of America.” In addition, the value is typically spelled out – “one cent,” “five cents,” “one dime,” “quarter dollar,” “half dollar.” All added up, each coin has at least 14 words on it. C’mon folks! It’s a coin, not a novel. Bills add some more verbiage – “Federal reserve note,” “this note is legal tender for all debts public and private,” and much, much more.
  • Abstractness – Though I do salute the recent commemorative nickels and quarters, most of our coins have some very basic adornment on them – essentially, presidents and symbols. Of the latter, we’ve got two buildings, two eagles, and the motley collection of crap on the  back of the dime (oak branch, olive branch, torch). Bills aren’t much better – an eagle, four buildings, and that weirdo Masonic thingee with the big eyeball on the back of the one-dollar bill.
  • Repetition – I’ve already mentioned how we’ve repeated the eagle no less than three times. We’ve also done something similar with Washington and Lincoln, who are both shown twice.
  • Color – Though it’s hard to get very colorful with coins, our bills are unrelievedly green. Green, green, green.

Face it, our currency is just damn ugly. 

Don’t believe me? Next time you’re outside the US, take a look at the stuff that’s in your pockets. It’s attractive! It’s modern looking! It’s colorful.  It’s simple! It’s elegant! 

Dutch 50 Guilder Note

A Modest Proposal

So, how can we improve this dire situation? Well, if I was dictator of the United States, I would propose something along the lines of the following …

First, we need to simplify, to clean things up. All that’s really needed on a coin is the name of the country, a date, and a value. Note that none of this needs to be spelled out. So, a quarter, for example, could simply include “USA,” “2014,” and “25¢.” I’m sure bills could be boiled down to include just a few more essentials as well.

Second, we need to add some slightly more interesting images. On the people side, surely there are other famous Americans who did something other than be president? Surely, there must have been some American who has accomplished something in the arts, or science, business, the military …? Heck, some of them might even reflect some of the diversity that our country is so famous for – women, immigrants, Native Americans, African Americans …

On the non-people side, I’m thinking there might also be some other sites out there than those situated in one square mile in Washington, DC. Yellowstone? The Grand Canyon? The Golden Gate Bridge? Maybe we could even add some events to these as well. The lunar landing, anyone? Raising the flag at Iwo Jima? The signing of the Declaration?

Looking at people first, let me propose the following:

Field Person Diversity
Architecture Wright
Art O'Keefe Woman
Business Carnegie Immigrant
Civil rights MLK African-American
Exploration Lewis & Clark
Invention Edison
Literature Twain
Music Ellington African-American
Science Einstein Jewish, immigrant

And these could be in addition to our two greatest presidents, Lincoln and Washington.

As to what we could put on the back, let me propose the following sites, symbols, and events (listed in order of importance – and possible visual impact):

  • Flag
  • Eagle
  • Statue of Liberty
  • Liberty Bell
  • Iwo Jima
  • Lunar landing
  • First flight (Wright brothers)
  • Mt. Rushmore
  • Capitol
  • White House
  • Signing of the Declaration
  • Golden Gate Bridge
  • Grand Canyon
  • Yellowstone
  • Empire State Building / Manhattan skyline
  • St. Louis Arch

Put them all together, and you might get something like the following:

Value Obverse Reverse Color
1 cent Lincoln Flag
5 cents Jefferson Statue of Liberty
10 cents MLK Liberty Bell
25 cents Washington Eagle
50 cents Frank Lloyd Wright Capitol
$1 (coin) Lewis & Clark Golden Gate Bridge
$1 (bill) Edison First Flight Green
$5 Carnegie Manhattan skyline Blue
$10 Twain Signing of the Declaration Grey
$20 Einstein Lunar Landing Purple
$50 O'Keefe Grand Canyon Scarlet

By the way, I also like how these selections cover the different regions of the country as well:

  • North East – Edison, Einstein, Statue of Liberty, Manhattan skyline
  • Mid-Atlantic – Jefferson, Washington, Carnegie, Liberty Bell, Signing of the Declaration
  • South – MLK, Twain, first flight
  • Midwest – Lincoln, Wright
  • West – Lewis & Clark, O’Keefe, Grand Canyon
  • West Coast – Golden Gate Bridge
  • Outer space (?!?!) – lunar landing

So, c’mon Jacob Lew (current, and 76th, Secretary of the Treasury)! Let’s get on the ball!