Today's Opinions, Tomorrow's Reality
Zachary Taylor's Renaissance
By David G. Young
Montañita, Ecuador, March 1, 2016 --
Ecuadorians are happy to take the dollar coins that Americans stubbornly refuse to use.
Poor President Zachary Taylor. He only managed to serve for 17 months before falling ill from the oppressive heat at a July 4th celebration at the Washington monument. He died a few days later of a stomach illness.1
His brief time in office meant that he accomplished little and Washington, DC has no memorials in his name. So when the US Mint began making dollar coins with his image in 2009 as part of its presidential dollar coins' program, it was Zachary Taylor's big chance. But yet again he was foiled -- this time by Americans who stubbornly reject using dollar coins.
The coins piled up in bank vaults and cash drawers, largely uncirculated. Most Americans don't even know that presidential dollar coins were even made.
Not so here in Ecuador. Zachary Taylor's image faces people every day. The country adopted the US Dollar as it's currency as a solution to hyperinflation in 2000, and US bills and coins -- including coins bearing the image of Zachary Taylor -- rattle around in everyone's pockets along with locally minted quarters, dimes and fifty cent pieces.
American dollar coins are particularly prevalent. Unlike Americans, Ecuadorians have no reluctance to use them, and dollar coins are much more common than dollar bills. America’s surplus coins are gladly soaked up by Ecuador.
The US Mint made over 350 million presidential dollar coins in 2009, including 78 million with the face of Zachary Taylor.2 But nobody wanted them. In 2012, a billion dollars worth of dollar coins sat unused in Federal Reserve vaults.3 This includes not just the presidential coin series, but all those Sacajawea dollars that are rarely seen circulating in America.
Yet the US Mint still tries to unload them. Its website sells 2,600 pound bags of dollar coins on steel pallets containing 140,000 coins for a 8.5 percent premium of face value.4
The Ecuadorians are more than happy to take those Zachary Taylors off of Americans' hands. Ecuadorian banks pay $3 million annually to acquire and ship replacement US currency for local circulation.5 These costs don’t include what American government spends to print bills and mint coins -- consider that a gift from the US taxpayers to the Ecuadorian people.
Currency wonks the world over are well aware that coins' longer shelf life make them an attractive alternative to paper bills. This is especially true in a damp climate like on Ecuador's Pacific coast, where bills last less time than in the US.
Keen to save money replacing currency, Ecuador is also experimenting with an electronic currency system, where people can use their cell phones to pay for items in stores without the need of bills or coins imported from the US.6
But the lack of widespread adoption of smart phones means the target market for this new system is limited. US coins won't be going away any time soon.
That's great news for the memory of America's 12th president. Zachory Taylor's legacy will continue to live on, even if it is half a world away.
Related Web Columns:
Revoking the Irrevocable, December 4, 2011
2. US Mint, Circulating Coins Production Figures, 2009 Presidential $1 Coin Production, as posted March 1, 2016
3. National Public Radio, $1 Billion That Nobody Wants, August 1, 2012
4. US Mint, Bulk Purchase Program, as posted, March 1, 2016
5. Tech Times, Ecuador Is The First Country To Use A Public Digital Currency System, August 10, 2015