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On July 30, 1956, "In God We Trust" became the official motto of the Untied States of America by act of Congress (Public Law 84-851). I had long been opposed to such a statement appearing on the noisemakers in my pocket, but I recently learned that the primary impetus behind such an act was a direct response to the "godless" Communists, our Cold War enemies. The motto has been challenged in the courtroom, the battleground of the intellectual, and the Supreme Court ruled in Aronow v. United States (1970), "[the motto's] use is of patriotic or ceremonial character and bears no true resemblance to a governmental sponsorship of a religious exercise." There you have it, a ruling by the Supreme Court that God is a figurehead for America. So I'm okay with it now. In God we trust, you pinkos!

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Signs that you're getting old: you don't recognize the coins in your pocket. Arriving home from the grocery store, I reached into my pocket and withdrew 32¢: one quarter, one nickel, and two pennies. And I'd never seen any of them before.

I know that they're making quarters for every state in the union, but this one was quite unexpected: it's Puerto Rico. The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is a self-governing US territory. Puerto Rican citizens have dual US/Puerto Rican citizenship, but are not subject to US income taxes. Though its citizens are allowed to vote in US elections, they have no direct voice in the US congress. So why exactly are they on my money? While I think it's cute that Puerto Ricans have finally taken their place beside the Indians Native Americans as currency mascots of protestant Manifest Destiny, I'd personally much rather see a powerful bison or majestic eagle on my coins than an advertisement for a tropical tourist trap that I'm paying to help support.

Speaking of buffaloes, the nickel in my pocket was the most familiar coin. On one side was Thomas Jefferson and on the other was Monticello. That's what was on nickels when I was a kid. Heck, it's what was on nickels when my grandfather was a kid! Only now Mad Tom sits off to the left of the coin, smirking at me. I'm sure he didn't pull that sort of sass with my grandfather, or his generation never would have given up their buffalo nickels. A quick search through the spare change cup on my desk uncovers not one or two but five (!) different nickel designs, none dated prior to 1996. That's 6 different coins in just over a decade! If they weren't all exactly the same size, I know I'd be in trouble at motel vending machines.

The two 2009-minted cents I received showcase Abe Lincoln on both sides, presumably because you can never, ever get enough Lincoln. "Heads" is the Lincoln portrait that's been tarnishing on pennies for a century, and "tails" is what will no doubt become known as the "lazy Lincoln" portrait of young Lincoln shunning his wood-chopping duties to read what I'm sure was the 19th-century equivalent of Us Weekly Magazine. An internet search reveals that there are 4 different cent designs released this year in a tribute to Lincoln's 200th birthday, with more due next year.

Why so many all-new, all-different coins? Both pennies and nickels have in recent years cost more than their face value to make, so why are we making so damned many? Is the US Treasury desperately hoping that people will take these coins out of circulation as "collectibles" so that the world won't ever catch on to just how many they're minting? (Hello? Inflation?) If so, they should go ahead and start making Obama coins. I'm sure that there are still quite a few people out there who would each save a few hundred Obama 3¢ pieces figuring to use them to put their kids through college once they've skyrocketed in value.

Meanwhile, if you're forced to stand behind me at Target, I apologize in advance for the wait. It's probably probably because I'm trying to figure out what combination of round collectible discs will add up to the 69¢ I need to buy penny candy. Now I know why all old people need glasses.

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To be continued...

 

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