Saturday, November 5, 2011


Back in 2005, Congress passed the Presidential $1 Coin Act. It requires the U.S. Mint to crank out nearly two million shiney one dollar coins every day.

So now the Mint has more than a billion of them. They’re building a new vault in Dallas – at a cost of $650,000 – just to store them.

Not very popular, these brass bucks. I have a friend who uses them to tip the bag boys at the golf club. I tried it myself. They look at you like you just stiffed them.

An editorial in USA Today says we ought to use the coins. Paper dollars last about 22 months. Brass bucks are still in circulation after 32 years. And they can be recycled. Old paper dollars get ground up and used for landfill.

The bucks cost about 30 cents to make. That works out to over 300 percent profit on very buck the Mint can sell. It won’t make a huge dent in a 3 trillion dollar deficit, but it would help a little.

I stumbled onto a blog the other day where some guys were talking about how to make easy money buying dollar coins. It seems that the Mint is so eager to put them in circulation that they ship them to buyers without charging freight.

And you can buy them with your credit card.

So here’s how it works: you buy $1,000 worth of coins from the Mint and charge them on your Visa card. That buys you $10 in cash awards. The coins arrive in a few days and you immediately deposit them in your bank account. You won’t have to pay Visa for another few weeks, so the bank pays you interest on the money.

Only in America.

I was still thinking about the brass bucks when I browsed over to see what the Occupy Wall Street people were doing. Looks to me like they are running out of gas. Apparently the New York assembly has degenerated into a free for all in which fun seeking teen agers mingle with street derelicts and radicals of all sorts tout inconsistent messages and demands.

Too bad.

There certainly is enough mischief on Wall Street to warrant attention. And whether or not the ratio is truly 99 to 1, it is pretty obvious that some of the top financial decision makers have screwed up and the vast majority of common folk are taking the hit.

In Orlando and elsewhere, the Occupy people are talking about taking all their money out of the banks and putting it into credit unions. Perhaps credit union managers as a class of people are more civic minded than bankers.

Still, many credit unions have gotten into the mergers and acquisitions craze that has produced huge banking conglomerates that are ‘too big to fail.’

And credit unions have the same kind of federal deposit insurance as the banks. So the bottom line is that your money, whether in a bank or a credit union, is as safe as the other fifteen trillion dollars Uncle Sam owes.

I seriously doubt that the current crop of demonstrators will have any impact on the ravages of human avarice. Wall Street will still be Wall Street in 2013.

But the frustration and outcry of the occupiers and the tea party can make a difference. If one step by one man on the moon can signal a giant leap for mankind, so can the individual actions of individual citizens affect the nation’s economy.

So what if you and I, and everyone we can email began using brass bucks instead of dollar bills?

What if each one of us started taking George Washington to the bank?
Turning in all our George Washingtons and using brass bucks instead.

Our constitution authorizes – indeed requires - Congress to coin money. Says nothing about printing bank notes for the Federal Reserve.

The dollar bill in your wallet is nothing more than a note from the Fed.

At least the brass buck is real money.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting .... it would be like the old wild west days where people walked around with pouches of gold coins ... ripe for robbery! Quite the contrary, where we are headed is plastic. The debit card will spell the doom of the script. Money will be nothing more than a piece of plastic. I pity the bagboy. How will we tip him?