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‘Godless Dollars’


Q: Did the government issue new dollar coins without the words "In God We Trust"?

A: Congress ordered the words to be stamped on the edges of the coins, but an unknown number of "Godless dollars" were produced by mistake.

FULL QUESTION

Please check the accuracy of this e-mail.

I’ll do this, hope you all will?? REFUSE NEW COINS

[EET ]This simple action will make a strong statement. Please help do this.. Refuse to accept these when they are handed to you. I received one from the Post Office as change and I asked for a dollar bill instead. The lady just smiled and said ‘way to go’, so she had read this e -mail. Please help out…our world is in enough trouble without this too!!!!! U..S.Government to Release New Dollar Coins You guessed it ‘IN GOD WE TRUST’ IS GONE!!! If ever there was a reason to boycott something, THIS IS IT!!!! DO NOT ACCEPT THE NEW DOLLAR COINS AS CHANGE Together we can force them out of circulation. Please send to all on your mailing list!![/EET]

FULL ANSWER

Earlier versions of this chain e-mail were flying around shortly after the U.S. Mint issued the first presidential dollar coin in 2007. The e-mails called for a boycott of the new coins. This version shouts in capital letters: " ‘IN GOD WE TRUST’ IS GONE!!"

United States Mint ImageThe claim isn’t true, however, as the authors of these anonymous messages could easily have discovered simply by looking at one or two coins, or by visiting the Web site of the U.S. Mint. In fact, on all but a relative few of the coins (which were products of manufacturing errors), the words "In God We Trust" are stamped right where Congress ordered them to be, on the edge of the coin rather than on the usual location.

The Presidential $1 Coin Act of 2005 states: "The inscription of the year of minting or issuance of the coin and the inscriptions ‘E Pluribus Unum’ and ‘In God We Trust’ shall be edge-incused into the coin." The measure was passed by unanimous consent in the Senate and with an overwhelming majority in the House, and quietly signed into law by President Bush on Dec. 22, 2005.

The U.S. Mint pointed out the unusual placement of the inscription when it began promoting the first of the coins in a publicity tour in early 2007. A news release issued Jan. 25, 2007, said: "For the first time since the 1930s, coin inscriptions such as ‘E Pluribus Unum’ and ‘In God We Trust’ will be prominently inscribed on the edge of the coins."

Nevertheless, that point was missed by some, and erroneous e-mail messages began circulating almost immediately. The urban-myth-busting site Snopes.com collected one such e-mail in February 2007 that lamented, "Here’s another way of phasing God out of America," and that called for a boycott. Some of the language in that message is identical to language in several messages that readers have sent to us in recent weeks.

Although there is no truth to the notion that Washington has ordered God off the new coins, thousands of them have indeed appeared without the intended inscription due to errors by the Mint. The first presidential coins went into circulation Feb. 15, 2007, and less than a week later a coin-collecting expert, Susan Headly, reported on her About.com blog that "thousands" of the coins had appeared in Florida with no edge lettering. But this was caused by errors at the Philadelphia Mint, she reported, not because of any government policy. The Mint issued a statement on March 7, 2007, saying that "an unspecified quantity of these coins inadvertently left the United States Mint at Philadelphia without edge-lettering on them." It added, "As we adjust this new process, we intend to eliminate any such defects."

The first mistakes affected only coins honoring the first president, George Washington. But a few months later, the same errors showed up on some additional coins honoring the second president, John Adams. Soon a clever reporter began calling coins with missing inscriptions "Godless dollars," and the term has stuck.

Far from boycotting the coins, however, collectors bid up the price of the "Godless dollars" precisely because they are mistakes and, therefore, relatively scarce. It would be a stretch to call the "Godless" dollars "rare," but they are uncommon. The Mint says it has produced a total of 340,360,000 of the Washington dollars, for example. So "thousands" with missing inscriptions would still constitute only a small percentage of the total. One eBay seller was offering a "Godless" Adams dollar for $500 as we wrote this, and the same seller was asking $220 for a more common "Godless" Washington dollar.

Our advice: If you are offered a "Godless" $1 coin in change, consider what it might fetch on eBay before you decide whether or not to refuse it.

But be warned: Some have taken to grinding the words "In God We Trust" off the edges of dollar coins in hopes of fooling collectors. The Mint has warned that it is a federal crime to market such altered coins as true "error coins" prized by collectors.

United States Mint Image

Footnote: Congress has given up on the idea of putting "In God We Trust" on the edges of $1 coins. At the end of 2007, it inserted language in a huge appropriations bill saying that "In God We Trust" must appear on the obverse or the reverse ("heads" or "tails") of future coins. And this year, the Mint put "In God We Trust" on the obverse ("heads" side) of the dollar coin honoring the ninth president, William Henry Harrison. The coins began circulating Feb. 19. The edges are still inscribed, but they carry only the words "E Pluribus Unum," the year "2009," and the letters "D" or "P" signifying whether they were produced by the Denver or Philadelphia mint.

-Brooks Jackson

Sources

"PRESIDENTIAL $1 COIN ACT OF 2005." Public Law 109–145.

U.S. Mint. News release, "United States Mint Provides First Glimpse of New Presidential $1 Coin in 10 Cities,"  25 Jan 2007.

The Associated Press. "U.S. Mint apparently goofs again with more ‘godless’ dollar coins," 20 June 2007.