A Lesson in Bad Design

February 14, 2007

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The US Mint is only a day away from releasing the first coin in their incredibly ugly presidential dollar coin series. If you haven’t seen these coins already, you’re lucky, because they are hideous. They look like mockeries of the Presidents they are supposed to be celebrating. For example, the representation of James Madison looks like someone superimposed part of a human face over that of a greyhound dog.

But perhaps the forefathers of the United States were just that ugly. In any case, when designing something that will theoretically be around forever, accuracy does not trump beauty. Here’s a prime example featuring Cleopatra and Antony.

So why would the US Mint even bother to release these $1 coins, especially after the Sacajawea flop? It appears to be an attempt to repeat the success of the state quarters that were released in the late 90s. Because an incredible amount of people collected state quarters, a large number went out of circulation. So when the mint “sells” the quarters that only cost them about 5 cents to produce and people take them out of circulation, they’re making $0.20 in a way. In the case of the state quarters, the US Treasury has banked about 5 Billion dollars in profits.

I have a strange feeling that people aren’t going to madly collect these $1 coins, though they may end up stuck with a pocketful of them when trying to buy a soda at a vending machine with a $20 bill. There is, however, evidence suggesting you should hoard your pennies (thanks Ezra).

-Chris

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