Last month I separated a couple of hands full of coins from the stash drawer in my desk. (See the bluejayblog post from March 17th.) Well, I finally got around to looking up their values. It turns out that the U.S. coins are only worth slightly more than their face values. The foreign coins are pretty much worthless on the open market. In other words, it would cost more to sell them than they’re worth.
While sorting through the coins, I thought about how important coins and money have been to humans throughout the ages. Coins were originally invented as tools of exchange or trading. It’s when coins and currency are used for their intended purpose, we obtain the most value. It’s the hoarding of cash that causes a great many social evils. The moral issue is finding the right balance between spending and setting funds aside for necessities, retirement and emergencies.
I held the old “Morgan” silver dollar in my left hand and thought of some of what it represents.
First of all, it’s a very hefty coin made of silver. Silver, along with gold, are the precious metals many nations, including the United States, that once backed the monetary systems. The date on the dollar coin is 1886. This not only represents when the coin was minted, it is a reminder to posterity of its history. It’s a vital relic from our shared past.
What was the US like in 1886? The 49th Congress was in session and Democrat Grover Cleveland was in the Oval Office then. Lady Liberty was very special in 1886 because in October of that year her famous statue in New York Harbor was dedicated. Earlier that year, pharmacist John Pemberton invented the carbonated drink that was later named Coca-Cola. The Haymarket Riot happened in Chicago, this ultimately brought workers the eight-hour workday. In late Summer of 1886, Apache leader Geronimo and his band of warriors surrendered to the US Army in Arizona.
The national bird, the bald eagle, spreads its wings on the reverse side of the dollar coin. Not only have eagles represented the power and authority of nations, the American bald eagle represents independence, strength, and freedom. In its talons are an arrow and an olive branch. The symbol is framed by a portion of a laurel wreath. Inscribed, is the perennially controversial, “In God We Trust”. Around the perimeter is, “United States of America” and “One Dollar”.
I picked up an ancient Roman coin and went on line to try to figure out what it represented back in the day. I discovered their money was categorized into Aureus, Quinarii, Denarii, Sestarii, Dupondii, Asses, Quadrains, and Unciae. Yes, they had ass coins. 400 Asses were worth one Aureus. So, evidently, if a Roman had an Aureus, she might be rich.
This again brought thoughts about the origin of coins. The first coins came about to represent labor. Farmers traded the fruits of their labor for coins that could be traded for other goods in the marketplace. The same went for other workers. Their work was rewarded in coins that could be traded for goods in the same way farmers could do. It was only much later in human history that silver and gold came to be minted into coins valued mostly because of what the precious metals represent.
Thomas Jefferson wrote that “Money, not morality, is the principle commerce of civilized nations.” By casual observation, we see that this is still the main motivator for domestic and international relations.
The subject of money is a loaded topic. In fact, one of our society’s idioms about wealthy people says that “they are loaded”.
Other popular phrases include descriptions of cars that can “stop on a dime”. Benjamin Franklin said, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” Can you have a penny for your thoughts? A worthless item isn’t worth a “plug nickel”. Be sure you don’t take any wooden nickels. If a friend calls to talk, you can say, “It’s on your dime.”
That’s my two-cents worth.