One recent result of the current pandemic and economic shutdown is a coin shortage. Many businesses are asking customers to either pay with the exact amount of change or use cards or other cashless forms of payment.
Naturally, this has started a new round of conspiracy theories. According to the stories, the coin shortage is part of a conspiracy by the “deep state” or “antifa” to create a cashless society. Thus, they claim, everybody will be required to use credit or debit cards, with the ability to track all transactions and the whereabouts of the spender. The ultimate goal is to implant chips in everybody that will trace their every movement, transaction and thought.
The villains of this coin conspiracy are supposed to be Obama, Hillary, George Soros, Tony Fauci, Bill Gates, the space alien in Hangar 18 and the shooter from the grassy knoll. Like all conspiracy theories going around now, it’s about as believable as the one about the moon landing being staged in the Arizona desert.
According to reliable news sources, the coin shortage is part of the pandemic slowdown and the curtailment of U.S. mint operations.
I feel there’s likely a fortune in coins stashed away, not by design but laziness, in the bottoms of drawers and in jars all around the U.S. While I unusually keep track of all coins of nickel level and above, I likely have several dollars worth of pennies in various drawers and compartments all over my house and car. Pennies are of so little value, I won’t even bend over to pick one up if I see it on the ground.
It wasn’t always that way. Coins used to play a major role in our money system. Most towns and cities had parking meters. A penny would get you 12 minutes of parking, while a dime would give two hours. People regularly bought soft drinks, candy, cigarettes and newspapers from coin machines. They used coins to play music on jukeboxes and to do their laundry in laundromats.
I remember coins used to be the primary way kids raised money. They could recover the pocket fallout coins in Dad’s easy chair, scoop up the change people left in machines, sell returnable bottles for two pennies each and gather silver dollars from grandparents’ gifts.
Nowadays, people rarely use coins. What vending machines that remain will take dollar bills or debit cards. Coin laundries create accounts from dollar bills or debit cards, and issue tokens or special cards to operate the machines. The same goes for subways, buses and toll roads. These days coins are almost useless.
Coins cost the country a fortune to mint. They’re heavy and require excessive time to count and transport.
My solution is to do away with coins completely. Paper money could be kept since it’s easily printed and stored. If people make purchases with paper money and there’s change due, the buyer could be given a credit slip to be applied to the next purchase. Or, better yet, all transactions could be rounded up to the next dollar and the change generated could be used as a form of taxation. Maybe it could be designated to rebuild infrastructure or used to ensure universal health care. The possibilities are limitless. Nobody cares about change anyway. They cram it in their pockets and lose it along the way. Or, they take it home, throw it down somewhere and forget about it.
I even have a slogan for my campaign to eliminate coins: “The best change is no change at all.”
Anyway, that’s my two cents worth, or should I say, “Give me two cents credit for that.”
Winston Jones is a former journalist living in Carrollton.