Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Demand for (Sacagawea) Money

Stan Collander has an interesting post on the unfortunate history of the Sacagawea dollar. For my international readers - several years back the U.S. decided to mint a bunch of new dollar coins with a picture of Sacagawea (the Shoshone Indian guide of Lewis and Clark in their expedition across the U.S.) on it. It was all released with a lot of fan-fare, but the strange thing is you rarely see these coins anymore. Collander explains part of the reason why.

But then the question remains - where are those coins? I actually found out where a lot of them are recently, and this post is as good an opportunity as any to share: Ecuador.

Or so I'm told by an Ecuadorian colleague of mine at American. Apparently Ecuador recently dollarized, so now while they still issue some of their own coins, dollars and American coins are legal tender in Ecuador. And apparently they love Sacagawea dollars down there and use them all the time! So if you ever wondered where all those coins went, now you know.

I'm not sure what it is with Americans and large denomination coins. We just don't like them. The Europeans have them, but we don't. I think it goes back to the good old days of inflationist revolutionaries sticking it to the king. If only Benjamin Franklin's money demand theory of the interest rate (which was based in those paper money fights) persisted as long as our resistance to large denomination coins did!


  1. What's the M0 of Ecuador?

    Without knowing that, I would still hazard a guess that the vast number of dollar coins (c. 1.2M) are sitting in Fed vaults.

    This doesn't do much to make the Federal Reserve look truly independent, and it causes one to wonder why, with a scheme like this already in place was there any talk about a platinum coin?

  2. There are also like a billion of them in storage at Fed:

  3. Oh geez, gotta slow down sometimes. The parenthetical above should read (c. 1.2B)--pretty big difference.

  4. Yes - I doubt the majority of the coins are in Ecuador. I just saw the Collander post this morning and figured it was a neat opportunity to share that factoid.

  5. Having lived overseas where large denomination coins are common my main complaint is that they are heavy. You end up with a pocket laden down with coins. When I lived in Central America I actually kept a bucket in my room to house my large denomination coins in. Paper singles are far less heavy, and they seem robust enough as far as wear is concerned.

  6. When I left Central America and returned to the U.S. I distinctly remember the absence of weight in my right pocket. The strange feeling of having something "missing" lasted for days after my return. I prefer having a less burdensome right pocket. Issues like this always remind me of Montaigne's stoves.


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