Money Matters, and So Does Size

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Yesterday a federal judge ruled that the Treasury Department is violating the Rehabilitation Act, which prohibits government programs from discriminating against people with disabilities, by failing to print paper currency so that blind people can distinguish one denomination from another. The 1996 redesign included the addition of symbols that can be read by infrared scanners, but U.S. District Judge James Robertson said that's not good enough. "Of the more than 180 countries that issue paper currency," he noted, "only the United States prints bills that are identical in size and color in all their denominations." Different colors help people with limited vision, while different sizes help those who are completely blind. Other options include raised numbers, foil patches of various shapes, and perforations. Personally, I'd like to see light-activated talking money like they have on Futurama—fun for everyone, plus you don't have to buy a bigger wallet.

NEXT: Twenty-Five Years Late, But It'll Do

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  1. It would be easy to cut some notches in bills to code them.
    But in this era, how about getting rid of cash entirely? Use debit cards instead and create a system like the phone cards sold at convenience stores for anonymous purchases.

  2. Awesome, now our money is going to look even stupider.

  3. why not just use coins? they can be distinguished by feel.

  4. To be fair, rather than changing money size, we should use money that doesn’t have any denominations on it. It would be a mystery to everyone, and thus fair.

    This is an annoying decision. I’m going to go find a blind person and kick her ass.

  5. But in this era, how about getting rid of cash entirely?
    With cash, it’s kinda difficult to track your purchases. Some of us prefer it that way. I’ve had a bad experience with paying with a card – made a single purchase in Office Depot, and since then I’ve been getting personalized junk mail from them.

    That said, I’m not too fond of the different sizes idea, either. I tend to hold my money together with a paper clip, and whenever I’m in Europe the larger bills suffer tears on their edges in my pocket. I do like, however, the idea of raised elements. If I remember right, Euros have raised elements – dots (not Braille) – on their notes.

  6. You know what? I buy it. The government prints money, the government should make the money readily usable by as many people as practical – and even go beyond that standard, as it has a mandate not to discriminate on such a basis.

  7. Who not pay with Liberty Dollars? Aren’t they different sizes!?!?

  8. The judge stated that “such accommodations are reasonable”.

    I’m sure the costs associated with changing every cash register and cash handling device in the US to conform to new bill sizes is reasonable. The wish fairy told me so.

  9. MP

    “I’m sure the costs associated with changing every cash register and cash handling device in the US to conform to new bill sizes is reasonable.”

    To a government policy maker anything is reasonable. I have the feeling that you haven’t encountered Canadian loonies [$1 coins] and toonies [$2 coins]. [Really. That’s what we call them.]

    BTW: This is not intended as ad hominem, but your posting handle has unfortunate connotations to a Canadian, as MP is shorthand for “Member of Parliament”.

  10. Now you understand why I was so adamant in my initial suggestion that a unique smell be used to differentiate denominations. But would they listen???

  11. You ever looked at the back of a $20 bill….ON WEEEEED??

  12. why not just use coins? they can be distinguished by feel. – biologist

    Yeah! You could make large denominations out of precious metals, so a blind person could make sure he wasn’t cheated by weighing them!

    Kevin

  13. I have a suggestion that will make everyone happy without changing the size of money:

    Scratch n’ Sniff! 🙂

  14. I have a suggestion–just give it all to me and I’ll take care of it.

  15. “Now you understand why I was so adamant in my initial suggestion that a unique smell be used to differentiate denominations.”

    A modest proposal:

    Bill Smell
    $1 – A cup of coffee
    $5 – A Big Mac
    $10 – KFC
    $20 – Marijuana
    $50 – Cocaine
    $100 – Heroin

    If there were still $1000 notes, I’d suggest jet fuel.

  16. “If there were still $1000 notes.”

    Me too! I went into a bank a few years back with 10 $100 bills hoping I could get one, only to learn they don’t make them anymore. How sad.

  17. Me too! I went into a bank a few years back with 10 $100 bills hoping I could get one, only to learn they don’t make them anymore. How sad.

    Another casualty in the WoD.

  18. I think they still make them, its just that only the federal reserve holds big bills.

  19. If there were still $10,000 notes, I’d suggest Winona Ryder.

  20. “I think they still make them, its just that only the federal reserve holds big bills.”

    No, thaey were clear that they are no longer made or in existence.

  21. …Canadian loonies [$1 coins] and toonies [$2 coins].

    I love those. And who says Canadians don’t have a sense of humor? Australia has one and two dollar coins too. The smallest note is $5 and it’s printed on mylar. Supposedly they’ll last three to five times as long as paper.

    Australia has gone one step better in the common sense department and taken the penny out of circulation. Smallest denomination: five cents. The cent is still an accounting unit but stuff in stores is simply priced to the nearest five cents.

  22. At one time the Treasury did have a really big bill ($10,000?) that was strictly for Federal Reserve and treasury use.

    I think they’re probably not necessary now since almost all money transfers are just computerised accounting entries.

  23. “$50 – Cocaine”

    Um… all of my money smells like cocaine. Or does cocaine just smell like money?

  24. Colin

    You’re either ahead of the curve or about to get a visit from one of those SWAT teams Radley has been talking about. 😉

  25. Since when are US bills discriminatory? It seems to me that it’s the condition of being blind that’s discriminatory. That blind people could be ripped off is no reason for everybody else to spend hundreds of millions of dollars accomodating them.

  26. They currently imbed a band which identifies the denomination, it would seem trivial to add a series of indentations or ridges to said band. But somehow I doubt the final implementation will be as straightforward and cost effective.

  27. “They currently imbed a band which identifies the denomination . . .”

    So *that’s* how the Illuminati have been able to track my every move! And all this time I thought it was Mr. Jones next door. I really owe him an apology, especially about the dead skunk in his mailbox.

    (note to humor-impaired readers: This is a *joke*)

  28. No, thaey were clear that they are no longer made or in existence.

    The $500, $1000, $5000, and $10000 have not been made since 1934, but you can still buy them from collectors.

    Isaac, the internal bill you are thinking of is the $100,000 bill.

  29. I don’t think this is a bad idea. It’s a one-time expense to switch, and it’ll pay off year after year afterwards. Maybe making the currency different sizes isn’t the best solution, but it’s a pretty damn good solution, and it’s a huge benefit for the blind. Maybe we could take this opportunity to make US currency more consistent. For one, get rid of pennies, and for God’s sake get a dollar coin!

  30. Someone mentioned the Liberty Dollar above. Not only are the “medallions” actually made of precious metal, as our coins no longer are, but the notes have numerous high-tech anti-counterfeiting measures built-in, are color-coded by denomination, AND have different lengths to allow the blind (or someone working in poor light) to tell the difference.

    Not so amazingly, the US government — acting out Gresham’s Law with extreme prejudice, apparently — now appears to be on a holy jihad against this privately-issued alternative, which provides all of the features that “legal tender” money does not.

    In the private sector, you drive out the competition by making the consumer a better offer. With government, you drive out the competition by making both your competitor and your “customer” offers they cannot refuse.

    Check out the whole, sordid story at http://www.norfed.org. If the government were doing its job, there would be no need for NORFED to exist in the first place.

  31. Isaac, the internal bill you are thinking of is the $100,000 bill.

    Thank you.

    Am I correct that its function has been entirely replaced by computerised accounting entries?

    I’m sure they must have lasted a long time, though, given that they could not have changed hands that many times.

  32. Oh, by the way, is there anyone else out there who thinks we need to get rid of the penny?

  33. Oh, by the way, is there anyone else out there who thinks we need to get rid of the penny?

    I do

  34. Oh, by the way, is there anyone else out there who thinks we need to get rid of the penny?

    I hear, due to the rise in prices for copper & zinc, the penny is actually worth more than a penny.

  35. Whatever happened to blind trust in this country?

  36. I hear, due to the rise in prices for copper & zinc, the penny is actually worth more than a penny.

    What I heard was that it costs more than a penny to make a penny. The difference is that cost includes labor expenses.

    I could be wrong, though.

  37. Mo | November 30, 2006, 12:13am | #
    Oh, by the way, is there anyone else out there who thinks we need to get rid of the penny?

    I do

    =====

    I don’t. Whatever happened to “Whip Inflation Now?” Getting rid of the penny is surrender to inflation. Next, the dime and quarter? No! Draw the line in the sand. Revalue the dollar. Ten old dollars equal one new dollar; ten old pennies (or a dime) equal one new penny, and so forth.

    It makes sense for our monetary unit to have some subtantial worth — you ought to be able to buy things other than a 1-cent stamp with a penny. It also makes sense for everyday economic transactions to be valued in small numbers of our basic monetary unit. A range from $0.01 to $100 should handle the vast majority of all transactions. History has shown us that this is an appropriate, comfortable human scale.

    Let’s revalue the dollar, make the penny worth something again, and channel any pain we feel during the transition into redoubling our efforts to keep a lid on the scandalous inflation that made the revaluation necessary in the first place.

    Interestingly enough, if we did as I prescribe, one ounce of silver would once again be worth — more or less — a (new) dollar.

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