Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I tried to do my part, but Sacagawea and Presidential dollar coins are doomed!

(After writing the following article, I received a comment below that made me give the coins a second chance. You can read about my more optimistic viewpoint here.)

It was Christmas all over again. I opened the package revealing a hoard of shiny, uncirculated, gold-colored coins all neatly wrapped in paper rolls - 25 coins to a roll. I used the U.S. Mint's direct ship program to order rolls of the new 2009 Sacagawea $1 coins with the agricultural reverse. The program is one of the ways that the mint is trying to get the coins into circulation. Although I only wanted one roll for my collection, the mint required that you buy a minimum of ten rolls ($250). But with free shipping, I was more than willing to help the mint by spending the other nine rolls. (I should point out that the coins arrive via UPS and are dumped at your doorstep - no signature required.)

My plan was to replace the dollar bills in my pocket with $1 coins and set out to spend them. I actually thought it might be fun to spread these around, and in so doing, give them a real chance to circulate. Afterall, that's the whole point of the direct ship program. It actually seemed like one of the better ideas the mint has come up with to try and get these coins to circulate.

So off I went with my pocket filled with coins and my belt straining to keep my pants from falling down due to the extra weight. I wondered if a hole might develop in my pocket allowing the coins to escape down my pants leg. That's something that's never happened while carrying dollar bills.

Still, despite pulling my pants up as I walked, I was looking forward to spending my first dollar coins at a store. I jumped into my car and took off for the store. Arriving at the store, I hopped out of the car filled with enthusiasm to carry out my mission. But I didn't get far before I noticed that my pants no longer sought a place around my ankles. My pocket was empty! Reaching inside my pocket I found no gaping holes. So where were the coins?

I looked back into the car and saw a pirate's treasure of gold piled high on the front seat. That's okay, next time I'll wear jeans with a change pocket instead of Dockers. Problem solved.

Undeterred, I entered the store, coins jingling as I walked the aisles. At the checkout, the clerk stared at the coins I had given her. She clearly had never seen dollar coins before and did not know what to do with them. I volunteered the information that the coins were the new 2009 Sacagawea dollars. Still she hesitated to accept them obviously thinking this might be some sort of scam. Another clerk came to her rescue by looking over at the coins and replied, "Jeez I hate those things. We don't have a place for them in our drawers, and customers refuse to accept them as change. They are such a pain!"

Walking out of the store - my enthusiasm waning - I spotted a vending machine selling $1.50 bottles of Coke. Okay, so I may have a little trouble spending these at retail stores, but at least I can get rid of a couple in that vending machine. I walked over and put the first coin into the slot. - tink clink tink - I listened as the coin made its way down into the machine. Then there was a final CLANK as my dollar finally arrived at the change slot. I tried a few more times. . . . No luck. . . . The machine wouldn't accept it. I pulled out two very battered and torn dollar bills and fed them into the machine. KA-THUNK My Coke arrived a second later.

Not giving up the mission, I decided I would get rid of a bunch of the coins at a place I was sure would accept them. The U.S. Postal Service recently announced that postage would be going up in May. So I headed to the Post Office in order to exchange that pocketful of Sacagaweas for "Forever" stamps. Afterall, the vending machines at the Post Office used to be my source of aquiring dollar coins by getting them in change. It's time I give some back.

But the Post Office was closed when I arrived, and those vending machines were gone. The Post Office had replaced those machines with a self-service machine that allowed you to weigh your packages and print exact postage. The new machine also sold booklets of "Forever" stamps so I was sure I'd still be able unload some of the coins into the machine. I jingled the coins in my pocket as I waited in line for my turn. As the person in front of me walked away, I noticed a sign posted on the machine. "This machine accepts credit or debit cards only!"

"ARGGHH!!! Crap! Crap! Crap! That's it! I give up! Screw the mint's direct ship program! If they want dollar coins to circulate, have Congress ABOLISH THE DOLLAR BILL first!!! Until then, these coins are going no farther than the bank!"

So I headed home and grabbed the box of 200+ coins and a deposit slip and headed for the bank. A sense of relief along with a feeling of "screw the mint" came over me as I waited in line for a teller. Finally, I walked up to a teller window, plopped the coins down and said, "I want to make a deposit."

The teller looked at the coins then looked up at me and said, "You'll have to come back next week on Tuesday."


"We only accept large numbers of coins for deposit on Tuesdays."


At 11:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I ordered $250 and have been spending them everywhere. Surprisingly, most people here have seen them and don't really make a big deal about them. Of course, I live in a college town, so they are probably accustomed to seeing odd and unusual things.

At 8:08 AM, Blogger A.C. Dwyer said...

I think you may be on to something about living in a college town. I think that environment is more willing to embrace change if they see it serves a good purpose. All of the people I dealt with were baby boomers. I think they are more resistant to change. I still have my hoard of Sacagaweas so I won't give up just yet. I'll start to pay attention to the age of the clerks and see if age makes a difference.

At 11:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Age seems to make a difference with vending machines too. I recently used the self checkout at my local grocer and had no problem using the $1 coins in it. The self checkouts were installed within the past two years so that may be the difference. Watch for newer vending machines and give them a try.

At 12:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The coin postal machines never have worked right, having then gone is welcome.

At 10:54 PM, Blogger A.C. Dwyer said...

I used the coin postal machines for years and never had a single problem. On the other hand, I've had numerous problems dealing with postal employees that didn't know what they were doing. I miss the machines - and the SBA dollars that came out of them.


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