New Insights from the Launch of the Presidential $1 Dollar Coin

Today was the day. February 15, 2007. The official launch of the new Presidential $1 Dollar Coins, with the introduction of the first coin, the George Washington dollar.  My original review of this program is still one of my most popular posts of all time.

The New York Times had suprisingly good coverage today.

New York Times: A Push for Dollar Coins, Using Presidential Fervor

I have covered the program in detail in earlier posts, but there were a few tidbits here that I thought were worth calling out.

First, huge rolls of sheet metal from outside suppliers are unwound into a machine that stamps out blanks, called planchets. Each planchet is squeezed between rollers to give it a raised rim and then softened by heating. Then it is burnished and coated, to produce the highly polished look.

The planchets are then fed into a press that applies over 80 metric tons of pressure, firing like a car engine to turn out as many as 750 coins a minute. The freshly minted dollars are carted to another machine where the edge lettering is pressed into them (right side up or upside down, at random) before being weighed, counted and poured into large Kevlar bags ready for shipping.

Did you notice the part that said right side up or upside down, at random? Now, that’s an ingredient for some additional collectibility. The “Edge-Incused Lettering” is one of the new features of the coin, allowing more space on the coin for bigger images, and a unique look and edge feel. If the lettering is applied at random, then the following variants will exist:

  • Lettering facing the front of the coin (Presidential image)
  • Lettering facing the back of the coin (Liberty)

I checked the US Mint website, incredulous that I had missed this detail. Sure enough, I found this quote:

These coins will feature edge-incused inscriptions of the year of minting or issuance, “E Pluribus Unum,” “In God We Trust” and the mint mark. Due to the minting process used on the circulating coins, the edge-incused inscription positions will vary with each coin.

Reading this, it sounds like the lettering will not even start at the same place on every coin. Maybe some of the coins will have text starting at the top of the portrait, others might have text rotated 90 degrees. Will this important to collectors? I’m not sure, but I would think in my mind that a perfect coin would have lettering that started with the top of the portrait.

Maybe this is a sign that I’m a little too detail oriented with coins.

I also thought the New York Times had some good detail on the costs of coins vs. bills, with some new information I hadn’t seen before:

  • It costs $0.20 to make a coin, but only $0.04 to make a bill
  • A bill lasts 18-22 months, a coin lasts 30 years
  • It seems that the issuance of bills vs. coins has some difference in treatment with the issuance of securities to back the currency. As a result, the US collects interest on the float from bills, but not on coins (this didn’t make sense to me, but this part wasn’t written clearly).

Actually, I had a new idea on the whole bill vs. coin debate. Why don’t we have a special election on whether or not eliminate the bill in favor of the coin, with these rules:

  • People who want the bill, if they are in the majority, agree to a small tax increase to cover the $500 Million a year to support it. This tax increase will only be levied against the people who voted to keep the bill.
  • People who don’t want the bill, if they are in the majority, will receive a tax deduction matching the savings from eliminating the bill. Only people who vote against the bill will receive the deduction.
  • People who don’t vote won’t receive the tax or the deduction.

My guess is that people who want the bill aren’t actually willing to pay for it.

12 thoughts on “New Insights from the Launch of the Presidential $1 Dollar Coin

  1. I also thought that New York Times story was surprisingly good. I wanted to refer to it in my review of the coin but, alas, the link is dead now (at least for nonsubscribers).

    I thought the most interesting section of the article is when it discussed the low value of the U.S. one dollar bill in comparison with other countries’ bill values.

  2. Thanks ! I’m relieved to have found an informed description of the random, Edge-Incused George Wash. coin.

    I searched the Mint Website yesterday and felt very frustrated that I couldn’t find any information referencing the random inscriptions on the George coin. (AND i was in a section of the site that discussed the DESIGN of the coin) I did however see an image of the stacked coins with portrait facing up and all Edge-Incusing readable.

    Is it any wonder that people on Ebay are going nuts? selling upside-down error coins? The information was not, and is not readily available! and now there’s much confusion. Don’t you think the mint goofed up just a little on this one?

    I have purchased a significant number of Georges and when I first saw the coin I was astounded to find the date and mint mark missing from the face of the coin. I had to search the net to find out what was going on, AND when I did find the answer, it was quite a let down! There and then I decided that I hated this coin. (not to mention the lifeless image of America’s 1st) It’s a little weird to have to use magnification to read the edge of a coin !

    So, rather than Ebayers selling what they think are “mistakes,” perhaps there’s a market for the “perfect” George.

    For your amusement………out of a 250 Phila. minted George Bag, I counted 133 inverted readable ‘mistakes,’ and 117 heads-up ‘correct’ readable coins. Yes! extremely tedious, but, none were Godless…..

  3. Hi Ursula,

    Glad you liked the post! The upside-down “error” listings to me are just ridiculous. Next you’ll have people claiming that unless the date is located below the base of the coin, it’s an error. It’s not an error, it’s a process that wasn’t designed to give consistent results.

    In the end, that’s where I think the Mint goofed up. They should have realized that not having every coin be identical was going to cause trouble. I also agree the edge text is too hard to read (have you tried seeing the “P” vs. “D”?)

    I’m sure it will pass with time, as people get used to the fact that all of these “errors” aren’t really errors.

    – Adam

  4. As I understand it, the true mistakes have a smooth edge w/o anything stamped. I see them on ebay going for big $$$, but I wouldn’t pay for one. I’ve never actually seen one, though.

  5. 1st, you could put “God Save the Queen” on the edge of the coin and it would be difficult for most of us to argue the true contents of the text. 2nd, I have a coin w/o any inscription on the edge but it isn’t anywhere close to being in “mint” condition. It looks as if it is possible that it has worn off already, but are any of these coins old enough yet to have had the edge inscription wear off through normal usage?

  6. From what I know, these coins are very new. I don’t think it is possible for the side writing to have worn off already.

  7. George Washington Dollar Question. 5/16/2007 What do you think the (value) would be of a unstamped planchet on G.Washingtons side? As in never have been struck but just smooth/blank

  8. Obviously, in this case, while you’d want secret ballots at election time, you’d want to make sure that post election you could reliably tie a vote to a specific person.

    Special election, special rules!
    Adam

  9. reference to 2009 george washington gold dollar, pennsylvania mint mark., missing in god we trust on the edge of the coin. What would the value of one of these coins or several be worth. Please send reply to Email address, Thank you!

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