Unless you have a Google alert for “circular, symbolically valuable pieces of metal,” you probably didn’t know that the likeness of Rutherford B. Hayes, 19th president of the United States, is now available in coin form. In fact, since Aug. 18, his mug has been stamped on several million coins, each worth exactly one U.S. dollar. This means that circulating at this very moment are millions of dollars’ worth of pictures of Rutherford B. Hayes.
I didn’t know this either until last Sunday, when a vending machine in the Fort Lauderdale International Airport spat three of those gleaming portraits into my outstretched palm. My first thought — and one informed by years of getting saddled with those little golden bastards — was, “Just what I need: dollars, in coin form!” But after examining the notable and peculiar resident face, my second thought was, “Say WHAAATHERFORD?!”
A few moments of browsing the web of interconnected tubes revealed that 1) there is a clip on YouTube of a centipede that eats bats (!!!) and 2) this particular coin is part of a whole program of “Presidential $1 Coins” initiated by the U.S. Mint in 2007. They’ve been covering four presidents a year for the past four years. I know you probably have a lot of questions (heck, I know I did), but rest assured: the mint prepared an FAQ page on their website that includes such gems as, “How can I get Presidential $1 Coins for the business I run?” and “Is the Presidential $1 Coin Program similar to the 50 States Quarter Program®?” On the former: don’t, unless you want your customers to think your business is pirate-themed. On the latter: of course not, you idiot. It’s TOTALLY DIFFERENT!
A question they don’t address on the website is, “Hey U.S. Mint, why are you making more of these stupid coins?” It’s true: nobody uses dollar coins. In fact, legislation has recently been proposed that would halt the program early. “Why?” you ask. Because the Federal Reserve Banks currently have over ONE BILLION DOLLARS’ WORTH of these shiny suckers in storage. This all makes sense if you think about it. If coin usage overtook bill usage, making it rain would be incredibly painful and God knows our politicians love their debauchery. But you guys: these coins cost less to produce and last about seven times as long as their cotton-blend counterparts; it would make so much more sense to use them instead of those flimsy pictures of George Whatshisface.
Still, I have some questions for the Mint that aren’t answered on their website. The first one is, “Why are we honoring all of the presidents?” No offense to Rutherford B. Hayes, who, scoring between 13 and 33 in a series of expert rankings, was actually kind of decent, sort of, I guess, but on Nov. 17, the mint plans on releasing coins honoring James Garfield, 20th president of the United States and a man whose only notable action in the White House was getting shot four months into office (SWEET!). They’ve already produced coins honoring such winners as Franklin Pierce, 14th president of the United States and an outspoken proponent of the Fugitive Slave Law (AWESOME!). Come 2016, there will even be one devoted to that paragon of transparency and virtue, Richard Nixon (TRUTHFUL!). And, not to be a dick about this, but how many more faces of Founding Fathers do we need on our money? I like Lincoln as much as the next guy but to be honest, Abe, I see your face every time I use a fiver or glance at the pile of unused pennies on my night stand. You know who I don’t see? Non-white, non-male people who probably contributed more to our country than, I don’t know, Rutherford B. Hayes. With the exception of Sacagawea, who’s been suspiciously absent in my recent transactions, we don’t really honor anybody who wasn’t a white guy in a suit who happened to hold an office for even a few weeks that wasn’t particularly important until the 20th century.
Where’s the Frederick Douglass $1 Coin, you guys? At the rate we’re going, the next time you pay for coffee with a Lincoln, you’re going to get back two Washingtons and a special edition Fillmore.