Fox News Doesn't Understand How Coins Work

A blog about business and economics.
Jan. 10 2013 4:30 PM

Fox News Doesn't Understand How Coins Work

1357853457884

Here's Fox News confusing the idea of a coin-shaped pile of platinum worth $1 trillion and a $1 trillion coin that happens to be made out of platinum and can be of any size. We saw earlier this week that the National Republican Campaign Committee also doesn't understand how coins work, so perhaps I can try again to explain.

In my wallet right now I have a bunch of $20 bills, a few $1 bills, and a $5 bill. These bills are worth different amounts of money due to the fact that they have different numerals written on them. In terms of their actual contents, there's very little difference but a $20 bill is much more valuable than a $1 bill just because. By the same token, if you write a check for $20,000 it doesn't need to be physically different from a $200 check except for having different numerals written on it. Coins are the same. Dimes are more valuable than nickels even though they're smaller. It is true that several hundred years ago the value of a coin was driven by its metallic content, but this hasn't been the case for a long time. The issue doesn't even have anything to do with fiat money. The point of a gold standard is that you can exchange your currency for a certain amount of gold. But the currency itself is not made out of gold or anything else in particular. Mostly it's paper. Some of it is coins. But the content of the coins is irrelevant.

Advertisement

If you think about it for a second you'll see that it basically has to be this way. Quarters and pennies and dimes and nickels all have different metallic content. Since the relative prices of different commodities fluctuates on a daily basis, if the value of coins were based on the value of the metal they contain then the relative value of different coins would be constantly shifting. You'd have to fire up your Bloomberg machine every morning to see how much money the coins in your pocket are worth. That'd be nuts, which is why they write numbers on the coins. A $1 trillion coin would be a coin of any size with the number "1 Trillion" written on it somewhere near "In God We Trust."

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 21 2014 1:15 PM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 5  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Time Heist."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 21 2014 2:00 PM Colin Farrell Will Star in True Detective’s Second Season
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 21 2014 8:00 AM An Astronaut’s Guided Video Tour of Earth
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.