No, The U.S. Mint Has Not Released $20 Coins Into Circulation

I’ve always thought that the U.S. should bring back larger-denomination coins. I like concluding an evening out in Canada or in the Euro zone and discovering that there’s the equivalent of $14 or so in change sitting in my pockets. A man in Pennsylvania apparently feels the same way, and succeeded in buying ice cream with a counterfeit $20 coin.

The AP reports:

Pennsylvania State Police are looking for a man they say sweet-talked a shop owner into accepting a fake $20 coin as payment for ice cream. Police said the man told the proprietor of Willow Tree Ice Cream on Friday evening that the coin was something the government has just begun issuing.

Yes, $20 coins existed historically, and you can get new ones from the mint even now. They’re priced according to their weight in gold rather than their face value, though, and change for a $1,289 coin from buying an ice cream cone is a little too much.

Police: Sweet-talker uses fake coin for ice cream (Thanks, GitEmSteveDave!) [AP]
2009 Ultra High Relief Double Eagle Gold Coin (UH1) [U.S. Mint]

(Photo: Shika Kaoin)

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  1. William Brinkman says:

    Coins are awful for pretty much everyone who isn’t blind. If there’s one thing that I hate when I’m in the EU aside from Paris in November, it’s coins.

    • B says:

      @William Brinkman: I disagree. I love larger demoniation coins, and they always work in vending machines.

    • Canino says:

      @William Brinkman: I disagree also. I love the use of $1 and $2 coins in Canada. Vending machines take them. I found it to be very convenient.

      • mac-phisto says:

        @Canino: i was in canada when the loonies first came out – wasn’t too convenient back then. virtually every store had a “NO LOONIES ACCEPTED” sign (& i had a pocket full of them).

        i wish we’d make the change here, already. i certainly find them more convenient.

    • Etoiles says:

      @William Brinkman: I’m another disagree. I adored having 1 pound coins when I visted London — somehow it felt easier for cheap things (like the jelly doughnuts we bought for breakfast).

    • sburnap42 says:

      @William Brinkman: When I was in Japan, I loved the coins. No trying to get the damn vending machine to take a bill for ten minutes!

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      @William Brinkman: the euro coins i have seen are all different sizes and thicknesses and some different shapes. in fact, when I worked at Walt Disney World, european tourists used to complain that US coins were harder for them to tell apart by touch in their pocket. i gave many a quick lesson [on common coins, no sacajaweas or kennedy half dollars] consisting of ‘the larger denominations have ridged edges and the smaller denominations have smooth edges.]

      the british tourists i met always complained about the bills being the same size – they wondered how sight impaired americans know they are getting the right change – pound notes are different sizes

    • fanboy.took.my.star says:

      @William Brinkman: 1$ and 2$ coins are handy… and vending machines behave better when you use coins…

    • Laura Northrup says:

      @William Brinkman: What’s wrong with Paris in November? Is it worse than Paris in July and August?

    • jamar0303 says:

      @William Brinkman: Are you kidding? large-denomination coins need to happen faster. We need $5 and $10 coins like Hong Kong does.

  2. FlyersFan says:

    Only in Pennsyltucky would someone be dumb enough to fall for that.

    • jackal676 says:

      @FlyersFan: I could see this happening pretty easily, even though at first it sounds like that poor guy was comically dumb. I was pretty taken aback when I first saw one of those Sacagawea coins when I was still working as a cashier years ago. It’s one of those situations where you don’t know exactly what to do, but you don’t want to look stupid/uninformed, so you end up looking even more stupid by inanely accepting what you are told without questioning it. So I understand how it could happen, but then again, I am originally from Pennsyltucky myself.

      • RandomZero says:

        @jackal676: I’d far rather look stupid for refusing a coin of uncertain origin than look REALLY damn stupid for accepting a ridiculously obvious counterfeit. In my time as a cashier, I would’ve refused anything I didn’t recognize.

        Then again, I’ve also never heard of a new coin or bill getting into circulation without it being trumpeted in every available medium for months beforehand.

    • OnThe$20Coin_GitEmSteveDave says:

      @FlyersFan: Derry?

  3. Gokuhouse says:

    I would love to see coins come back. All of the coins should have some gold in them too, the gold would equal the value of the coin so your money can earn interest all by itself instead of having to invest it in crap. That $5 coin would have a tiny amount of gold in the center encased in whatever metal was cheap. At least I think it’s a good idea….You’d be able to spend it for face value or break it open and sell the gold itself in 10 or 20 years when it’s worth more than $5….

    • OnThe$20Coin_GitEmSteveDave says:

      @Gokuhouse: But the value fluctuates so rapidly even on a daily basis, it would be tough.

    • Anonymous says:

      @Gokuhouse: I wouldn’t start throwing around terms like “interest”. Gold is a very long way from a sure thing. It can and does go down for decades at a time. It only moves in the opposite direction of the dollar sometimes: http://bespokeinvest.typepad.com/bespoke/images/2007/12/06/dollargold1.png

      Mike

    • Elcheecho says:

      @Gokuhouse: i’m not sure we havee that much gold. The treasury has about $11 billion in Gold. Meanwhile we produce something like $2 billion worth of coins each year.

    • huadpe says:

      @Gokuhouse: Yeah, the way it used to work was that a “dollar” was actually a measure of weight. A dollar was (for example, the rate changed now and then) 1/40th ounce of gold. Fixed rate. So that twenty dollar coin might be half an ounce. Now there isn’t a fixed dollars/ounce rate, hasn’t been since Nixon.

  4. oneandone says:

    I am fascinated by the fact that the Mint currently is not producing some silver & gold proof coins, because they need the silver and gold to mint coins for use and keep up with demand.

    [catalog.usmint.gov]

    Personally, I am saving my pennies towards an Eleanor Roosevelt ‘first spouse’ uncirculated gold coin. If it’s like the others, it will be ~$620.

    [catalog.usmint.gov]

    • HiPwr says:

      @oneandone: I’ve been buying the silver American Eagle coin every year for some time now and this is the first time I’ve seen this. I don’t really understand it. Do they have a shitload of pre-orders? I don’t see how because the website won’t even let you order at all.

      • oneandone says:

        @HiPwr: I got the feeling there’s a distinction between the proofs & coins intended for circulation…. but I’ve never bought or encountered these coins, so I have no idea. Have you tried to buy one this year?

        Also, it seems like they are having problems with people buying coins with credit cards that expire before the coin minting date. I’m going to assume that is a sign of the times as well.

      • mac-phisto says:

        @HiPwr: personally, i think it’s the nexus of a few interrelated developments that are straining production: 1) increased interest by collectors (specifically the “ebay it” type, not traditional numismatists), 2) increased demand for silver in the marketplace & (most importantly, in my opinion) 3) increased production requirements at the mint. seriously – have you seen how many different coins/sets they have going
        now?!? they’re gonna kill all the good that the state quarter program had on renewing interest in coin collection. =(

    • mac-phisto says:

      @oneandone: i can’t really justify the expense, but i love the “president’s liberty” coins that are going to be issued for presidents without spouses (jefferson’s liberty, jackson’s liberty, etc.). wish i could pick up a few of them. $600 for a coin is a bit rich, though. although, the circulation levels ensure that these coins should retain a special place in collectors’ hearts.

  5. Esquire99 says:

    Everything smaller than the quarter is useless. I could probably support larger denomination coins, though. Of course, I’d also not have a problem with the simple elimination of cash. I hate cash.

    • sponica says:

      @Esquire99: everything smaller than a quarter might be useless except for those times that you need random change so you don’t end up with a pile of random change…

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      @Esquire99: Tell that to CoinStar!

    • Blufyor says:

      @Esquire99: Yeah, I wouldn’t really shed a tear if the penny got phased out a la New Zealand’s penny (which hicks describes a bit farther down). Keep everything in easily-divisible units so you aren’t fishing for (and sometimes finding out you don’t actually have) an oddball number of cents when you’d prefer to pay with exact change, and round up/down as necessary when people pay for goods with cash.

  6. OsgoodMerula says:

    If the Mint wasn’t constantly releasing new coins and changing bills, it would have been much harder for this guy to fool the ice cream shop.

    When I first was given one of the new $10 bills with all the color, I paused because I was sure it was a foreign bill. The clerk asked me if I’d seen the new $10 bills yet, and since it was a place I went often and I knew the employees, I took his word for it, but it’s hard to protect yourself from fake money if the real stuff is a moving target.

    • Kogenta says:

      @OsgoodMerula: I don’t know about the US, but whenever Canada introduces new bills, they send out information pamphlets to retailers as well as have it online to tell you what to look for on the stuff that’s going to start entering ciculation in a few months.

  7. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    Has anyone else had it happen where you buy something, and they give you rounded off change?

    Like I should be getting back $0.26, and they give you a quater? There is a Wendy’s by me that does that, and they look at you weird when you ask for the rest of your change. As if pennys don’t count.

    • Zorks says:

      @AlteredBeast: There’s a local icecream place by my house that proudly displays a “penny free zone” sign next to their registers. More power to them, after all, besides cashing them in every once in a while, or accidental “exact change moments” when do you use pennies?

    • slopirate says:

      @AlteredBeast:
      I was at a doughnut shop once and the clerk put my change in the tip jar.

      • shepd says:

        @slopirate:

        “I changed my mind, I don’t want a donut after all. Please refund my money and I’ll go elsewhere.”

        Well, it’d be my answer to an employee tipping themselves with my money.

        • johnmc says:

          @shepd: Make sure you have the receipt if you want to do that.

          • shepd says:

            @johnmc:

            My receipt is the video camera pointed at the cashier. You can be sure the boss doesn’t appreciate the employees stealing the customers’ change (unless it’s going to the boss).

    • Sure I could agree with you, but then we'd BOTH be wrong. says:

      @AlteredBeast: I need something to pinch.

    • huadpe says:

      @AlteredBeast: The pennies count, but at any reasonable wage rate the time involved isn’t worth it. Even at $7.15 an hour, if it takes more than 5 seconds to ask for it and get it, a penny is not worth it. That time decreases as your value of time rises.

      That said, usually stores do it in my favour. Taking an extra cent or two off their amount to make change quicker.

    • Etoiles says:

      @AlteredBeast: Yes, but shops I’ve been in only do it the other way: your total is $0.24, and they’ll give you a quarter.

      When I was a cashier, I found that the goodwill and time saved were both worth it. And it never added up to more than fifteen cents a day, and we only got in trouble if our drawers were off by more than $2.

  8. Rain says:

    Reminds me of Rick Mercer and the Woodie.

    [video.canadiancontent.net]

    Full show here, for the interested.

    [video.google.ca]

  9. sonneillon says:

    When I pay at the lightrail with a 20 it gives me change in Saquajaweas. So I know what having 18 dollars in change feels like.

    • Laura Northrup says:

      @sonneillon: The old post office stamp machines do this, and so does my car wash. When I needed parking meter money, I used to buy one stamp with a 20.

  10. Sure I could agree with you, but then we'd BOTH be wrong. says:

    If we make gold coins, people are going to shave them down for the gold (which is why coins today have ridges on the edge – when they made them with Silver prior to 1965, people would be able to shave some silver from the edges of coins and return them to circulation, so the ridges were there to prevent that – you could tell if it was shaved)

  11. hicks says:

    When I was in New Zealand, I enjoyed their coin situation–there are no pennies, but there are $1 and $2 coins. If your total was, say, $3.02, they’d round it down to $3.00. 1-2 cents are rounded down, 3-4 cents are rounded up.

    If you paid via check or credit card you paid the normal amount with no rounding, and to make it even simpler, cash registers in supermarkets had a dual display to show what you owed for either payment method.

    But yeah, $14 in change does happen for the first few days. Then it becomes really nice to pay for lunch with a few coins.

    • Anonymous says:

      @hicks: Actually 5c coins were eliminated a couple years back, so now 10c is the smallest denomination. 1-4c is rounded down, 6-9 is rounded up, and 5c is a toss-up, though the government recommends rounding down.

      In addition, probably by far the most common form of payment in New Zealand is actually Eftpos (a kind of debit card) that everybody has and is accepted virtually everywhere.

  12. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    i hear the canadian strippers love the fact that the smallest canadian paper money is a five.

  13. Andrew Makk says:

    There are in fact Canadian $1 bills.

    • ottawa_guy says:

      @Andrew Makk: Yeah there sure is, but they are not in circulation.

      We introduced the $2 coin in 96, and it’s nice. Whenever I break a $5 I put the coins into my change bucket at home, and come out with a nice result. The last time I redeemed them I had about $100 or so. I usually redeem them twice a year.

  14. tobedetermined says:

    I am from Hong Kong and I hate coins for one very specific reason: the higher the denomination, the heavier the coin is. The US $1 coin is already heavy.

    Also, coins are also susceptible to counterfeiting.

  15. Dansc29625 says:

    This reminds me of a lady at walmart that tried to pass off a $1000 bill.

    When the nickel was created a person plated them in gold and would pay for something with them and sometimes he got change for a nickel, and sometimes got change for 2.5 dollars. (back when a dollar was worth something.

    • Anonymous says:

      @Dansc29625: That guy was blind and mute. He put gold plating on the early Liberty Nickels. The reverse of them didn’t have the denomination spelled out, just a roman numeral V. Some clerks would give him change for a $5 gold coin, others wouldn’t. He eventually got arrested, but was let go because he was blind and mute.

    • Brazell says:

      @Dansc29625: The dollar is worth an exponentially more amount of money today than it was in 1866, when the Nickel first debuted.

      Just to note.

      (PUN INTENDED!!!!!!)

  16. unpolloloco says:

    $1 coins only will be accepted if $1 bills are abolished. $1 bills are lighter and easier to carry, so they will be the payment choice unless they are taken out of circulation.

    • P_Smith says:

      @unpolloloco: Going by Canada’s example, coins last three to four times as long. Plus there’s the convenience and ease of use in toll booths, meters and vending machines.

      My experience in a short time living there is people stop carrying 1/5/10/25 pieces when they go out, only $1 and $2 coins, only carrying smaller coins home as change.

      People end up carrying the same amount of metal, they just do so in larger denominations.

  17. Jesse in Japan says:

    A sock full of coins makes a great self defense weapon and convenient coin purse!

  18. sam1am says:

    Good idea – it would really up my take on visitors using my couch…

  19. William Brinkman says:

    @Laura Northrup: Average Paris temperature by month: [www.paris.org]

    Slightly warmer than NYC on average, but it’s close.

    Also, I guess I should note that I think cash is pretty awkward too, but I absolutely hate coins. They are heavy, not easily organized, and make noise. Nothing about that sounds good.

  20. Brazell says:

    I hate coins more than anything, but I’ve come to realize that nations, countries, and societies that use coins will hold onto them like grim death.

    Coins are fine and well for the blind and disabled, but I was so fed up with being paid my change purely in coinage when I go to Canada. Get a cup of coffee in Vancouver, get paid out a couple loonies of change, it used to infuriate me.

  21. vladthepaler says:

    Not surprising. The government changes the look of its money much too frequently, which has got to make counterfeiting easy. “Yeah, it’s the new design” is plausible because it happens so much.

  22. tinyhands says:

    There was an interesting story on NPR recently. Someone did a study and proved that people (not just Americans, mind you) will spend money if it is in smaller denominations faster than the same amount in larger denominations. Therefore, if the government wants people to spend it’s stimulus checks, it should hand out more of them in smaller amounts. Another suggestion was to increase the circulation of $1 coins as well as to introduce $2 coins, as it is human nature to spend those faster than bills.

    [www.npr.org]

  23. KMan13 still wants a Pontiac G8 says:

    it would suck to lose a coin of this value though
    and for some reason, i think it’s easier to lose coins than bills…

  24. 420greg says:

    I hate large domination coins like other countries use.

    I was in france when I was in the navy. I went back to the ship one night because I thought I was broke. All I had was a bunch of change in my pocket.

    When I went down to dispersing to turn the coins in for US dollars I had over 60 bucks. I could have stayed in town for a few more hours.