Lunchtime rolled around today and I decided to leave the office to eat with the lunch crew (our graphic designers and our editor-in-chief). As we walked out the door I stopped at the vending machine to purchase a bag of Chex Mix. This particular machine is a new model and it accepts $5 bills. Hating to break such a bill in a vending machine but not having any singles, I slipped an Abraham Lincoln note through the slot and made my selection. What came out of the change slot was something I had never seen nor heard about before.
This vending machine was introduced a couple months ago. Each time I used it I always noticed the label announcing that it accepted $5 bills. The question of how change was returned always went through my head. Did it shoot back crisp dollar bills into the change slot? Did it go Vegas style and dump down 16 quarters? These are the stupid things that keep me up at night. Turns out I was wrong on both fronts.
When I selected my Chex Mix a clinking sound filled the slot. Okay, part of the mystery is solved, it returns coins. But the sound didn’t signify a whole bunch of quarters. Before opening the door of the slot I thought I either had Sacajawea dollars waiting for me or I had been ripped off. Once again, wrong on both fronts.
What I picked up was something I had never seen before. In my hand were four goldish-looking coins with different cartoonish-looking portraits of the U.S. Presidents on each of them. On the back was a depiction of the Statue of Liberty with the signification that it was worth $1. Since I was a kid I have always loved different types of coins and bills so I was immediately fascinated and also a little confused. How had I never seen these before?
I caught up with my four lunch partners who had already started walking to the building where we eat at and I showed them my change. Not one of them had ever seen these types of coins. Each one had a different portrait of a President…George Washington, William Harrison, Martin Van Buren, and Abraham Lincoln. My co-workers shared my astonishment as we discussed whether anyone would even accept them if I tried to make a purchase. When I returned from lunch I showed the coins to more people in my office. No one had ever seen them before! It spun my curiosity the whole afternoon.
I waited until I got home to do an internet search. I expected to learn that this was a new dollar coin initiative that just started up. So wrong again! I was amazed to find out that the Presidential $1 Coin Program started in 2007!! In a model that resembles the U.S. State Quarters Plan, select coins are introduced annually. Specifically, four Presidents each year come out on the $1 coins. The issuing goes according to chronological order. In 2014, Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, and FDR have all been released. Presidents must be dead at least two years before having their image minted so most likely the program will end in 2016 with Ronald Reagan.
For someone who loves the United States Presidents and currency as much as me, I still can’t believe I have been completely ignorant to this program for seven years. However, maybe I should say just four years. You see, in 2011, the government decided to stop minting the coins for circulation, opting to just release smaller amounts for collectors. Although I am a fan of currency, I don’t collect it. My full intention is to spend these coins but the question remains…will retailers look at me with confused faces when I present them as payment?
What a cool little lunch discovery today. If you have any experiences with these coins, please let me know. It is crazy how little publicity this program garnered. I will let you know how my transactions with this type of money goes. But, if you want a piece of history and are willing to pay me double for them, I will definitely take your offer. Don’t Blink.