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Writing in opposition of the new dollar coin

March 16, 2006
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Writing in opposition of the new dollar coin
Carl the Carwasher

Editor's Note: Carl the Carwasher is a fictional character whose argument was created based upon comments and information taken from online forums and general industry discussion. Professional Carwashing & Detailing® magazine does not endorse opposition to the dollar coin, but wish to generate a valid argument for the sake of further discussion in the industry.

In 1979, the United States Mint issued the first circulating coin to feature an actual woman, the Anthony dollar. The now infamous coin was issued from 1979 to 1981, and then again in 1999.

The coin has been plagued with problems — most surrounding the fact that it closely resembles the quarter and the public refuses to acknowledge it as a viable alternative to the dollar bill. During its first round at circulation, it failed miserably.

Coin wars

Apparently, the U.S. Mint does not accept defeat easily. In 1997, it approved the Sacagawea gold dollar coin, featuring another famous female, the Native American guide to Lewis and Clark.

During this time the U.S. Mint revived the silver Anthony coin, out of fear that the dollar coin inventory last minted in 1981 would be depleted and that Americans would be even less enthused about the new dollar coin. One year later, in 2000, the gold dollar coin was finally released.

During that same year, the General Accounting Office (GAO) recommended that Congress eliminate a provision in the Sacagawea bill that banned elimination of the greenback. The GAO noted five essential elements that would be needed for a dollar coin to be successful in the United States:

  • The $1 note would have to be eliminated;
  • A reasonable transition period would be needed;
  • The $1 coin would have to be well designed and readily distinguishable from other coins;
  • An adequate public awareness campaign would be needed; and
  • Congressional support would need to be sustained to withstand the initial negative public reaction to eliminating the $1 note.

None of this happened. Despite a three-year, $67.1 million marketing campaign by the U.S. Mint, the gold coin, which is almost an exact replica of the size, weight and electromagnetic properties of the failed Anthony coin, bombed miserably.

The public strikes back

Like I said, the U.S. Mint does not accept defeat easily. In 2005, it announced it would again be issuing a gold dollar coin.

This time, the mint will abandon paying homage to any unlucky female, and instead engrave the images of the 37 dead presidents beginning in the year 2007.

The mint hopes to follow the success of its state quarter minting, believing that the American public will again become eager to pocket and collect the "limited edition" coinage. The program is a bit like walk-off profits from a self-serve carwash token promotions — only this "promotion" doesn't benefit carwashes.

This is a selfish attempt by the U.S. Government to waste taxpayer money once again under the guise of being helpful to the small businessman. This new coin may excite collectors and coin fanatics — but it most definitely should not excite carwash owners and operators.

The last time you stopped into your local Kwiqie-mart for some milk and gas, did the cashier hand you a dollar coin in change? The last time you stopped at the soda vending machine outside of Wal-mart, did you pop a dollar coin out of your pocket to plunge into the slot for a nice, cold cola?

No. And the vast majority of the American public didn't either.

Unless the United States eliminates the dollar bill, the dollar coin will never be widespread, and the expensive additions we provide to our coin acceptors at our self-serve carwashes will be extremely underappreciated.

It's true — we could make the coin popular. We could choose to only vend dollar coins in change and accept them at all of our bill acceptors.

But for the Americans who refuse to be weighed down by the heavy alternative to paper, it just ain't gonna work.

Yes, the coins will most likely become popular collector's items like the state quarters. But they won't become popular profits for us; just the government.

Return of the govern'mint'

Rep. Mike Castle, R-Del., the man who originated the state quarters and proposed the presidential dollar coins, acknowledged in a recent USA Today article (December 15, 2005) that the coins aren't likely to ever replace the dollar bill. In that same article, Castle said, "There's almost no way you can lose on this."

What he means is: there's almost no way the government can lose on this. The U.S. Mint estimated a $4 billion profit from the state quarter program by just the halfway point.

But the gold dollar will COST carwash owners. We'll be the ones paying to provide our customers with the most flexibility.

And carwashes aren't alone in their disgruntled attitude towards the coin — banks aren't a friend of this golden opportunity either. In fact, many operators can't get the coins from their banks and when they do, it appears to be a crazy mix of Susan B.'s and Sacagaweas.

Many in the industry are also questioning the International Carwash Association's (ICA) actions in this matter. Public outcry demands that the organization provide some sort of validation that the coin is necessary and beneficial to carwashes.

The ICA lobbied, but they never provided proof that the coin was preferred by carwashes or their customers. A simple opinion poll of carwashes in membership of the association would have proved that there are mixed and lingering feelings of resentment towards the coin.

No golden opportunity

Some people might consider my attitudes pessimistic in nature. Well, I'll support the dollar coin when and if these conditions are met:

  • Wal-Mart begins handing the coins out as its primary choice of change;
  • All Susan B. Anthony's are eliminated and taken out of circulation to avoid unnecessary and harmful confusion;
  • Banks become keen on providing pre-sorted, readily available supplies; and
  • The dollar bill is removed from circulation and the government backs the coin 100 percent.

In other words, I'll never support the dollar coin and other carwash owners and operators shouldn't either. Let's face it, the issue has been tested (and has failed) enough.

If the success rate of these coins represented a wash you were considering investing in, you would have left the table a long time ago. The mint might refuse to acknowledge failure, but I know a raw deal when I see it.

Editor's Note: The argument above was created using comments and information taken from online forums and general industry discussion. Professional Carwashing & Detailing® magazine does in no way endorse opposition to the dollar coin, but simply wished to generate a valid argument for the sake of the debate and discussion in the industry.