A golden dollar coin first released in 2000 has the image of Sacagawea, a… (Los Angeles Times )
You can probably hear it when I walk down the hallway: the sound of gold dollar coins jingling in my pocket.
I use them everywhere: the dry cleaner, the store, my favorite diner. No, they are not a heavy burden, I tell skeptics. When brand-new, they're like shimmering drops of sunshine.
It's practical. During a dark time in my life, I used my credit card for almost every purchase.
But at the end of each month, I was confronted by bills that pained me. What was that $4.06 purchase from a vendor called "San Francisco"? Or that $38.38 buy from "Caseys"? Did I really go to Souplantation twice in a day?
This world of credit cards, I felt, was making me lose touch with my money.
Because my credit card gave me frequent flier miles for each purchase, though, I kicked myself any time I used cash.
Then I discovered that the U.S. Mint had a $1 Coin Direct Ship program. I bought $250 worth of coins on my credit card, and a few weeks later, a heavy brick-size cardboard box landed on my doorstep. Inside were 10 rolls of Sacagawea dollar coins.
Oh, how I loved spending them.
The coins were bright. They were easy to use on the bus. A delight to deposit in parking meters.
Their edges had none of the harsh serrations of quarters. They were smooth. Every morning, I grabbed a fistful for lunch money.
The golden coins brought particular joy to some independent shop owners. One restaurateur showed my Thomas Jefferson coins to his customers. My dry cleaner wanted whole rolls.
The reaction in the some corporate chains was a bit different.
At a Subway sandwich shop, an exasperated cashier asked: Why do you use these so much? Where do you get them?
At Costco, I once handed a cashier a bundled roll of $25 in coins. A suspicious cashier asked a supervisor if I should be photographed in case I was using funny money.
My dollar coins are worth the occasional scorn. There is grace in reclaiming tactile control of my money.
Each coin seemed a bit more valuable than a tattered dollar bill, giving me pause before I might spend it. They certainly seemed more valuable than my credit card.
Having a tangible sense of money became a new philosophy. I resisted automatic withdrawals from utility companies and paperless bank statements.
I had learned the hard way about the risk of being too detached. Years ago, I failed for months to detect a $20 monthly checking fee at my bank. And only because I paid my phone bill manually did I discover that AT&T had begun to charge me a $5 fee for not using my land-line long-distance plan.
I am not the dollar coin's lone fan.
Video arcade manufacturers once lobbied for it, to no avail.
Think of all the hassle we deal with because of no dollar coins. In Washington, a quarter buys drivers only 7 1/2 minutes at a meter. "So if you're going for dinner and a movie for four hours, that's 32 quarters. Wouldn't you rather use a few dollar coins?" asked David DuGoff, a carwash owner in Maryland and a member of the Dollar Coin Alliance, which seeks to replace the dollar bill with coins.
But Congress has shown little interest, even though the Government Accountability Office recently concluded that the government stands to gain from a move to dollar coins to the tune of $5.5 billion over 30 years.
Forces are now gathering against the dollar coin.
Negative media coverage forced the U.S. Mint to end acceptance of credit card orders for coins and free shipping.
And card-only services are proliferating. "If you have cash only, maybe the person behind you will buy your ticket for you," I heard a FlyAway employee tell passengers after the bus line to LAX stopped taking cash earlier this year.
At a time when the country is still reeling from an era of overspending on credit, why are we being penalized for spending cash?
The final indignity came earlier this month, when Vice President Joe Biden announced the suspension of minting dollar coins en masse.
"Nobody wants them," Biden said. Biden said nearly $1.4 billion in dollar coins is sitting unused in Federal Reserve vaults.
I can still get dollar coins from my bank, which seems to be more than happy to be rid of them.
And in a world where cash is becoming an abstraction, I take pride in spending money that I can hold in my hand.