The 8 Stupidest Things The United States Has Ever Done to its Currency


8. The Susan B. Anthony Dollar (1979–1981; 1999)


WHAT IT WAS: The successor to the Eisenhower Dollar, this one dollar coin was signed into law by President Jimmy Carter in 1978 and sported Susan B. Anthony, hoochimama for the women’s rights movement. However, since President Carter knew better than most people how rough it was to have Jimmy Carter in the White House, even he probably knew that this was not a good sign.

WHY IT SUCKED: While we can’t hold it again Susan B. Anthony that she’s wasn’t nearly as hot as Lady Liberty on the 1795 Bust Dollar. (Also known as the busty dollar.) The coin’s original hendecagon-rimmed perimeter–an aid for blind people–was protested by, of all people, the vending machine manufacturers’ lobby. They claimed that existing vending machine technology was too sexist to handle the coin’s awkward design, and would have to be retooled at great expense to… you guessed it, the vending machine manufacturers’ lobby. So when it came to providing for the blind or the vending machine manufacturers’ lobby, the US government chose to side with the lobbyists.

One year later, so was Carter.

As for the rest of the nation, too many hard-working, tax-paying Americans–cashiers for example–mistook the coin for a quarter, and thus repeatedly lost $0.75 to every Susan B. Anthony Dollar they counted. This led to the coin being disparagingly referred to as the “Carter Quarter,” and after an embarrassingly short run of just two years the coin was cashiered.

7. The ‘New’ $5 Bill (2000–2007)

Guess which one of these you’ll have an easier time photocopying at Kinkos.

WHAT IT WAS: A fancy new $5 deigned to combat counterfeiters.

WHY IT SUCKED: Since it was the only redesigned dollar that did not sport color-shifting ink, its larger print and simple layout coupled with modern computer-printing technology actually made it easier to counterfeit than the old bill.  While any counterfeit bill would almost certainly fail any serious test, on surface who would suspect that one of the fancy new $5’s would be fake?

6. Silver Certificates (1878 to 1964)

WHAT IT WAS: An obligation that the government of a country will “pay to the bearer” of silver certificates, which initially read: “This certifies that there have/has been deposited in the Treasury of the United States of America X silver dollar[s] payable to the bearer on demand.”

Just like in Goldfinger. Only, you know, with silver and for real.

WHY IT SUCKED: Greed. Because the value of precious medals changes from one country to another, people made entire businesses by taking US currency, converting it to silver, and then selling the silver in different countries at an inflated price at the expense of the US Treasury.

5. The Aluminum Penny (1974)

WHAT IT WAS: A penny made out of aluminum to compensate the fact that a 1-cent penny made out of copper was now worth more than $0.01.

WHY IT SUCKED: Once again, the vending machine manufacturers’ lobby put a stop to it, and this time they were aided by pediatricians/pediatric radiologists who argued that the coin would be nearly impossible to detect using X-Rays if it was swallowed by children. In short, this was one of the few coins in American history that was eventually deemed too dangerous to exist.

4.The Half Dime (1795–1873)

WHAT IT WAS: A half dime, worth 1/2 of a dime ($0.05).

WHY IT SUCKED: Because once the five-cent nickel was introduced in 1866, it took the government 7 years to realize that it had two of the same fucking coin; the nickel and the half time. Rather than simply stop printing nickels—or better yet, simply calling the nickels half-dimes—the half-dime was retired in 1873 to make way for… you guessed it, a freaking identical currency.

3. The Nixon Shock (1971)

WHAT IT WAS: To put a leash on the runaway US inflation–which, naturally, was being caused by the endless war in Vietnam–Nixon decided to issue a series of economic changes which included “closing the gold window,” ending convertibility between US dollars and gold. As a result, the gold standard which backed up the US currency was no longer dead. It was dead, buried and eventually sent to Vietnam.

WHY IT SUCKED: Because Nixon made this move without consulting with the international monetary system or even his own State Department. As a result, instead of stabilizing the US dollar the Nixon Shock made the currency even weaker than ever before. The value of the US dollar was now just an idea which less and less people were buying into. Also, the modus operandi of this move, the Vietnam War? Yeah, the US kinda ended up losing that too.

2. The Sacagawea Dollar Campaign (1999-2000)

WHAT IT WAS: What the US Treasury hoped would be the silver bullet to the $1 dollar note: a gold-ish coin.

WHY IT SUCKED: After a $53 million promotional campaign by the federal government, the coin failed to catch on even though it would have been just as easy–and way less expensive–to simply stop printing $1 dollar bills.

1. Most of What The Confederate States of America Printed (1861-1865)

WHAT IT WAS: The official currency for 11 US states during the American Civil War.

WHY IT SUCKED: Since the Confederates were not fans of federal power, their federal currency was virtually DOA. Combined with skyrocketing inflation, widespread counterfeiting and flat-out getting their asses kicked in the Civil War, the Confederate Dollar was a harbinger of doom for the stillborn Confederate States of America while the US currency remained back up by a steady inflow of California gold. However, since facts like these would probably have ended up with you getting shot in a duel in the South, the Confederate economy remained just as imaginary as their dreams of victory throughout the Civil War.


Related on The Smoking Jacket:
How Should I Be Investing My Money? 
Mo Money, Mo Problems