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From the January 2006 issue of ACCent, the newsletter of the Anchorage Coin Club:


R. I. P. Sacagawea!

By Mike Nourse


        Well, I tried, but now I give up! I went to the bank on a regular basis and bought $100 at a time of Sacagawea dollars and used them instead of dollar bills whenever possible. Over the last few years, I have noticed that the golden dollars that I give the clerk at the cash register are the only ones in his or her cash drawer. Looking back five years ago or so, there would typically be at least one or two sitting in one corner of the register but that sight is quickly becoming a thing of the past. In all these years, I never received one in change.
        Why did the Sacagawea dollar fail? Nobody knows for sure. My guess is that people just are not interested in having any radical changes to our monetary system. It is one of those cases of not wanting to fix something that isn't broken. I suppose that it does not yet require too many quarters to run a vending machine for people to want an alternative.
        Probably part of the reason is also that increasingly money is thought of in terms of flat pieces of plastic with magnetic strips with words like Visa and American Express on them rather than metal discs containing words like Liberty and the cryptic E Pluribus Unum. Even vending machines are taking credit cards now, eliminating one of the great arguments for the need for a new dollar coin. Credit cards offer some pretty enticing rewards for their use, anything from a percentage back to frequent flyer airline mileage. Using cash gives you no reward of any kind.
        Should we try again with the dollar coin? Probably not - it has been a pretty consistent failure straight on through from the Eisenhower cartwheels of the 1970's through the Anthony 'quarters' and on to the current Sacagawea golden dollars. I kind of think that if the Eisenhower dollar had been issued using the same color and smaller size as the Sacagawea dollar back in 1971, it may have been a success and actually have become an everyday sight in American pockets and purses, but it is too late to change history.
        Longer term, I do think that money (coins and currency that is) will become a thing of the past. The transition to plastic cards is well underway and seems to show no signs of slowing down. Keep in mind though that I am thinking this situation will not come to pass for another two to four decades from now, after most of us, myself included, are gone. Even today there are plenty of individuals that I know that rarely use anything other than plastic to pay for almost anything. Credit cards are being issued to younger and younger kids (tied to their parent's account of course) so the little darlings don't think twice about just swiping a card through a reader and the transaction is done.
        Will I ever get more Sacagawea dollars from the bank for spending purposes? Maybe, but probably not. I know several Anchorage Coin Club members were also trying to promote their usage in the same way, but I think I am ready to throw in the towel on this one, once I have spent the last few that I have. However, I am reeeealy looking forward to spending lots of Alaska state quarters in 2008!


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