Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Two Sides of the Coin

This post was inspired by a question posed on Tori's blog, "If you had to be a coin, which one would you be and why?" I knew it was something that couldn't be answered in the small confines of a comment box and I'm always looking for a subject to write about here so that's what I did.

I think it’s important to look at each coin beyond its face value first before simply picking one. So here’s a brief (I hope) perspective on each coin out there:

Penny – The least face value coin but one that for the last few years has sparked major debate. Turns out that to produce a coin worth a single cent cost somewhere between two and three times that much and because of that, there are legions who think the penny should cease production and let those still in circulation run their course and eventually, not be part of our currency vernacular. In a way, I feel like championing the penny only because there are those who seek to destroy it before attempting to research ways that it might remain in circulation more practically. I also love the distinctive color of a penny that instantly distinguishes it from any of the other common coin denominations (unless you consider the 1943 pennies that were steel and not copper).

Nickel – The coin famous for being part of the expression, “If I had a nickel for every time…” always was the subject of that hope filled phrase that promised a fortune in nickels, “if only”. I’m not sure nickels ever really got their due as currency like pennies, dimes and quarters. Back in the day there was “penny” candy and while you could buy five pieces with a nickel, you needed to have one to do so – pennies were easier to come by. I’ll talk about dimes and quarters in their own space. A nickel is the thickest of the coins and that depth gives it a sense of character much like the historical figure that adorns the coin, Thomas Jefferson. There’s a firmness to it that almost make it feel more real, more substantial than the others.

Dime – There was a time, in my lifetime, that the dime was the most important coin you could possess. Back when there was such a thing as pay phones, they were for years a common receptacle for dimes. A single dime was what was required to make that all important local call. A dime was once the required currency for all parking meters – in fact, the dime was so prevalent during its era of prevalence that there were companies in Asia that produced bingo markers in the exact dimensions of a dime and they were sold and purchased with the intent to be used as “slugs”, in place of the dime (for a fraction of the cost when bought in a tub). The nostalgic factor of what the dime once was makes it special. Oh, I remember it was important to keep a dime in your shoe so that you would always be able to make an emergency phone call – how special is that?

Quarter - There is something forceful about a quarter that starts with its own description on its back, “quarter dollar”. The penny says one cent, and expression of singularity (or perhaps individualism). A nickel states, “five cents”, a slightly more than subtle way of expressing either dominance (one of me for five of you dear penny) or perhaps economy (the value of five pennies with the convenience of carrying a single coin). The dime shouts, “one dime” which can be taken as a combination of the singularity/individualism of the penny’s wording yet the dominance/convenience of the nickels verbiage; most interesting is the dime carries all that weight being the lightest and smallest coin of the bunch – pretty impressive! Back to the quarter, this is in fact the quarter’s paragraph, “quarter dollar” not only identifies is as an individual (quarter) but clearly as a part of something bigger than itself (dollar) – perhaps the quarter’s greatest value is as a metaphor for human kind and not just a coin worth twenty five cents.

I suspect anyone can make a valid argument why any of these coins might be a good choice in answering the question posed but there is another coin out there that I think of all, might be the one I’d be most drawn to choose in response and that is the Sacagawea dollar. The Sacagawea dollar doesn’t have the rich history of the others that have been in circulation for many, many years as it has only been minted since the year 2000. One of the early issues this coin had was a result of its physical dimensions being so similar to a quarter that it was often confused as vending machines were unable to distinguish between the two. This design flaw, a byproduct of human error, caused the coin to be devalued, often obliviously and again, we have a metaphor for human behavior. How often do we devalue people, places and things in our life simply because we don’t pay them enough attention? The simple act of awareness, care and concern for that which is before us – respecting the value of the people, places and things in our life, much like the Sacagawea dollar instantly change its value. I think just like human life, relationships, and that which we as humans must be stewards of, such as the environment demands attention, awareness and respect in order for us to realize its true value – just like this coin.

The one trait all coins have is two distinct sides. Both are very different, both have attributes that make them unique but combined, form the single coin which is an entity unto itself. Similar to a relationship between two humans each must respect the others individuality and uniqueness but both come together and unite into a single couple which also has qualities that distinguish it from the two individuals involved. Both individuals at all times need to respect that the relationship is three distinct entities that must find harmony to remain strong.


radioactive girl said...

I tried to leave a comment yesterday but I guess it didn't work. Sorry!

I love what you wrote, love how you thought it all through and especially love the last part. Perfect!

Chris said...

Tori - this was an interesting exercise in thought and writing - thanks for the inspiration.