"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 22 December 1998. Updated every WEEKDAY.
Change Is Good


The new $1 coin will be golden
in color with a distinctive
edge and will have tactile and
visual features that make it
readily discernible from other

- US Mint press release,
30 November 1998



Welcome to the Akron Numismatic

Society Newsletter. My name is

William, and I'll be your editor.

As we work together in the

coming months, I'm sure you'll

find much to love about the

genteel art of coin collecting

and the science of creating a

hard-hitting newsletter about

it. While I realize your

experience with coins and coin

collecting is, as you say,

"limited to the mayonnaise jar

above the washing machine," your

fine work for Needlepoint

Enthusiast will surely pay off

here in some as-yet-unforeseen



The first thing to know about

this business is that the proper

word for coin collectors and

their hobby is "numismatist" and

"numismatics," respectively. You

wouldn't believe the number of

well-meaning people who confuse

us with "mnemonics," a form of

mental trickery for remembering

worthless trivia, or even

"pneumatic," which refers to

that bizarre canister-and-tube

device at the drive-thru bank.

(Personally, I think you'd have

to be crazy to trust your money

to such a contraption, but I

digress.) Finally, I don't know

what "hermetic" or "hermeneutic"

mean, but they have no place in

our work here.


Now is certainly an exciting

time in the world of coins and

collecting! Let me give you a

quick rundown of some of the

important stories we're

following. For the past decade,

collectors and government

officials have been at each

others' throats over the Susan

B. Anthony $1 coin. This issue

has been our bread and butter.

Just this summer, for example,

we reported that a collector

from Nashville wrestled a deputy

treasurer to the carpet at a

regional convention in

Milwaukee. And last year, we

published a groundbreaking

exposé on a Seattle

dealer who was nearly arrested

for making threatening phone

calls to Alan Greenspan - in

spite of being notified that the

chairman of the Federal Reserve

had nothing to do with making

the coin exactly the same size

and shape as the quarter.



You may ask, "Why is the $1 coin

smaller than the half-dollar?

Why is the lowly nickel almost

twice the mass of the dime?"

These are the perennial

mysteries - and hence the

ever-green stories - of

numismatics! As you can see, our

subject is rife with controversy

and drama, and our readers

expect us to be right there in

the thick of things, ready to

"call it in the air."


I'm sure you can imagine the

chaos in our newsroom this week

when the US Mint announced it

had whittled down its final

designs for the new $1 coin.

Officials say the Sacajawea

dollar, which will go into

circulation in 2000, will be

easily distinguished from the

quarter and the Susan B. Anthony

dollar by its unique gold tone.

You might assume this will

effectively end the old

controversy and dry up our news

well. On the contrary: There are

dozens of stories to be told.

For example, it's not at all

clear why the Fed can't make our

most valuable coin bigger; say,

the size of a coaster or a small

salad plate. And why did it

overlook the Buck Henry design,

considered a sure bet by so many

of our readers? Since the

Sacajawea dollar will make its

debut after the turn of the

millennium and the possible

arrival of the apocalypse,

there's also speculation that

rabbit pelts and buffalo hides

will go back into circulation.



Calls need to be placed,

contacts need to be greased!


As you may know, the euro goes

into circulation this year, too,

and this has led to some

confusion among our readers.

Here is a terrific opportunity

for proactive journalism; it's a

chance for us to help educate

our readers about their changing

world. Although parts of Canada

are considerably more "European"

than the United States, there

are no immediate plans in Ottawa

that we know of to subscribe to

the EEC. And even if there were,

it's unlikely that the euro

would be any more effective in

American vending machines than

the current line of Canadian

change. Just so, I can see it

now, a sequel-in-the-making for

our famous serial, "Less than

Zero: the modest appeal and

value of Canadian money."


Many people mistakenly believe

that numismatics is a remote,

special interest that has no

real relevance in their lives.

In my experience, a single

phrase is sufficient to change

their minds: the Problem of

Pennies. What do you do with

them? Where do they go? Is it

illegal to throw them away? Are

they worth the copper they're

coined from? Why has the cent

symbol been quietly eliminated

from computer keyboards? These

are all questions of imminent

interest to the public at large,

especially since the Clinton

administration's proposal to

replace the troublesome coin

with pocket lint and small bits

of nondescript paper.



I hope I've given you some idea

of the wide range of our

coverage and a taste of the

excitement that lies in store

for you in upcoming issues. I

look forward to showing you

around the office when you start

next week. That's about it for

now. Just remember two things:

The Franklin Mint is neither a

mint nor a government agency,

and it was a numismatist who

coined the phrase "to coin a

phrase." One other heads-up: You

can be sure I've heard all the

jokes about my name from

manuscript collectors and

lapidaries. While I can

appreciate a good joke as well

as anyone, I prefer to be called

William in spite of what earlier

mastheads say. See you soon.

transcription by E. L. Skinner


[Purchase the Suck Book here]