Published May 1971 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
Byrd's-Eye View By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd U.S. Coins Keep Economy Moving Coins, along with paper money, are a vital part of our monetary system; yet, no one knows exactly how many coins are in circulation today in the United States. Treasury Department officials estimate that, since 1792, the first year of production close to 104 billion coins have been put into circulation. Last year alone, the Philadelphia Denver, and San Francisco Mints produced 5 billion pennies, 709 million dimes 322 million nickels, 290 million quarters, and 129 million half-dollars. Coin production is big business. During our Nation's history, 19 different denominations have been issued for circulation. Denominations no longer being produced include the $20, $10, and $5 gold coins, and the 3¢ and 2¢ copper coins. The government agency vested with the awesome responsibility for manufacturing and distributing our coins is the U.S. Bureau of the Mint. The Bureau also receives deposits of gold and silver bullion, and disperses these valuable metals for industrial and artistic purposes. The inscriptions placed on our coins by the Mint are established by law. The word "Liberty" must be imprinted on one side of all U.S. coins. Upon the reverse side of each gold and silver coin, a figure or representation of an eagle, with the inscription "United States of America," must likewise be imprinted. In addition, all our coins carry the motto "In God We Trust," which was made mandatory in 1955. Statesman and inventor Ben Franklin is the only non-President of the United States to have his picture imprinted on American c o i n s. The Franklin half-dollar was recently replaced by the Kennedy half-dollar, minted in honor of the late President. In 1964, the country began to run short of change; and the Mint's original expectations that its coins would remain in circulation for a period of 25 years became only a wish. The shortage was caused by substantial increases in population, vending machines, and by silver hoarding among some citizens. Congress, in 1965 faced with an insufficient supply of silver to meet the rising demand for more coinage, eliminated the silver content of the dime and quarter, and reduced the percentage of silver content in the half-dollar. Today, there is enough coinage to adequately meet our monetary needs. But, we should be mindful that future coin shortages might seriously impair our growing economy. By keeping our coins in circulation, we can keep America's economy moving.