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June 24, 2011

Fort Knox Threatened!
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 07:05 PM * 114 comments

Ron Paul worries Fort Knox gold is gone

“This is one of the few legitimate functions of government: To check our ownership and be fiscally responsible and find out just what we own and whether it’s really there,” said Paul, who is among those running for the Republican presidential nomination.

Thanks to international cooperation between the CIA and MI-6 the responsible party has been identified.

Oddjob and Goldfinger

No need to worry: Our British allies are ready to handle the problem.

Comments on Fort Knox Threatened!:
#1 ::: D. Potter ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2011, 07:30 PM:

It would not surprise anyone if Mr. Paul wanted to play Auric Goldfinger in this production...

#2 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2011, 08:03 PM:

If I were Obama, I'd spend some book royalty money to secretly have a few extra gold bars made up and smuggled into Fort Knox.

"Hmm? What's that? We have more reserves than we thought?"

"Say, how much is your audit costing us, exactly?"

#3 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2011, 08:11 PM:

Fort Knox holds 147.3M ounces of gold. A single bar is typically 400 oz. Today's closing price was $1,502.33 an ounce.

$1,502.33 x 400 = $600,932.

Even for Barack, two of those would be a healthy chunk of his cumulative royalties.

#4 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2011, 08:21 PM:

Watch out for flying bladed hats. "And for Golden Girls," Bea Arthur says.

#5 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2011, 08:35 PM:

Linkmeister @3 -- yes, but he could probably get a great deal on some of the very good counterfeit bars that have been being made and sold recently. I expect he might even be able to borrow them through a friend.

I wonder how frequently they actually do an audit there?

#6 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2011, 08:37 PM:

Tom W @ #5, from the page I linked first: "The only gold removed has been very small quantities used to test the purity of gold during regularly scheduled audits."

So they do (or did) audit their inventory.

#7 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2011, 09:07 PM:

But how frequently? It can make a difference...

#8 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2011, 09:16 PM:

If Ron Paul has nothing better to worry about, perhaps we should find him some wholesome activity. I understand Georgia needs blueberry pickers.

#9 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2011, 09:25 PM:

From the linked story, the gold at Fort Knox is inventoried annually, and the vault doors sealed. The seals, reportedly, have not been disturbed since the last audit.

#10 ::: Rob Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2011, 09:46 PM:

"No, Rand Paul, I expect you to DIE!"

#11 ::: heckblazer ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2011, 10:46 PM:

I think the movie script Ron Paul is working from is actually Die Hard 3.

The New York Federal reserve holds other central banks' gold reserves as a free service, and in fact it houses more gold than Fort Knox. Transfers between countries consist of moving gold bars from one anonymously numbered shelf in the the NY Fed's vaults to another anonymously numbered shelf; only a few key people know who owns which account. As part of Paul's general paranoia about the Federal Reserve he's worried that the NY Fed has been secretly putting US gold on other peoples' shelves and/or been receiving fake gold back. Auditing Fort Knox isn't due to a fear gold was stolen there, but instead to look for transfers to and from the place where the actual monkey business occurred.

(Important note: my attempt to explain the method in Sen. Paul's madness is in no way an endorsement of said madness).

#12 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2011, 10:47 PM:

But you see, if they don't count EVERY LAST BRICK, how do we know . . . ?!?!

#13 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2011, 10:53 PM:

Follow the yellow brick road...

#14 ::: Ken Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2011, 11:35 PM:

Someone please find the clip from The West Wing where Sam meets with the UFO conspiracy-follower whose father died six months before, believing that there is no gold in Fort Knox b/c they had to make space for the alien bodies from the 1947 crash...

#15 ::: Q. Pheevr ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2011, 11:37 PM:

He's quite mad, you know.

#16 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2011, 12:37 AM:

I'm sure you're all aware that a portion of the gold bars in Fort Knox were replaced with Wonka Bars during the Reagan Administration as a favor to Prime Minister Thatcher (who needed to get them out of Britain before someone started counting the gold there).

#17 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2011, 01:35 AM:

That whole thing sounds as if Mr. Paul thinks Fort Knox is like Gringotts..... never mind.

#18 ::: Neil W ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2011, 07:17 AM:

As I usually put it when watching the film "Who would have thought that a man named Auric Goldfinger would be obsessed with gold?"

A man named Ronald Ernest Paul should be obsessed with guitars, or Mcdonalds or Oscar Wilde surely.

#19 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2011, 08:04 AM:

It sounds as though Ron Paul doesn't trust anyone.

The thing is, the Fed Reserve problem he sees is distinct from Fort Knox. If the Vault is sealed, and the seals are checkable, and it's not enough, then you might have a much bigger problem. As it is, if there's no transfer of bullion recorded, how could a transfer happen.

Whether the Fed Reserve is doing their storage job properly is another issue.

I suppose that gold bullion bars have identifying marks, who made them, some sort of Assay Mark, and a serial number. The shelves in the Fed Reserve might not have labels identifying the Central Bank which uses each one, but that detail is only a light anonymity. It likely needs a very different sort of audit than Fort Knox would need.

In the end, Ron Paul sounds foolish, maybe even paranoid.

Incidentally, could there be some sort of portable assay device, which uses some sort of non-destructive test--x-ray fluorescence for instance? Chemical testing is, ahem, the gold standard.

#20 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2011, 08:45 AM:

If they dare to come out in the open field and defend the gold standard as a good thing, we shall fight them to the uttermost, having behind us the producing masses of the nation and the world. Having behind us the commercial interests and the laboring interests and all the toiling masses, we shall answer their demands for a gold standard by saying to them, you shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns.You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold!

(link includes audio recording)

#21 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2011, 09:22 AM:

Dave Bell #19 - there is no reason at all a portable XRF could not be used. It would have to be calibrated on a variety of pure and alloyed gold standards, and would only give you the outer few mm of the bar. But it would be very quick, the newer ones can do a measurement in 30 seconds or less.
Ok, you'd still get results that said 99% for a 100% bar, but that is the problem with XRF, it isn't as clean as say ICP.

So wingnuts could still say the results are being fiddled.

(Of course to get a representative sample for ICP or AA you'd have to drill 3 or 4 holes right through the bar, which would take a bit of time)

I wonder if Rand is after a moment like in Terry Pratchet's "Making money"?

#22 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2011, 09:36 AM:

Neil W @ 17... In John Varley's anthology "Superheroes", there's a story about a bunch of costumed crimefighters, one of whom - called the Patriot - dresses as if it was still 1776, and he is quite dismayed when someone easily figures out that his civilian name was Bill Wright.

#23 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2011, 11:02 AM:

Madeleine Robins #8: Georgia already has enough nutcases. I'll thank you not to suggest adding to their numbers.

#24 ::: Larry ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2011, 11:23 AM:

As soon as I read it I thought Goldfinger. The question is why is he doing this now? Is there some other issue he wants to deflect or is he just batshit crazy?

#25 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2011, 12:07 PM:


The defining feature of Ron Paul, as far as I can tell, is not that he has a bizarre picture of the world with only a tenuous connection to reality, it's that his bizarre picture of the world isn't shared (or at least given lip service) by a large set of powerful people.

So, if you say that America us under the threat of having Sharia law[0] imposed upon us, you're not any less delusional than RP and his North American Union bit, or this weird thing[1]. But you have more company, including at least a few large media outlets who will push your delusional agenda. To be crazy in politics, it's neither necessary nor sufficient to be out of touch with reality--you need to be uniquely out of touch with reality.

In my experience, political ideas that are labeled as "crazy" are typically either:

a. Ideas that nobody's used to hearing. (Batshit crazy stuff becomes socially acceptable, and even mainstream conventional wisdom, mostly by repetition from respectable people.)

b. Ideas that many people want to avoid debating because the debate is hard to have or because it challenges their premises or beliefs or is upsetting to have.

Now, often, these ideas which are labeled as crazy really are very hard to reconcile with reality, or require movie-plot-like supercompetent conspiracies of thousands of people, or otherwise simply don't fit very well with observable facts.

[0] Goofy though this notion is, it's several orders of magnitude more likely that someone's skimming gold from Fort Knox than that the tiny, despised minority of Muslims will somehow impose Sharia law on us. And neither nutty idea is as impossible to reconcile with reality as young-Earth creationism. I mean, it's at least physically possible[2] for Sharia law to be imposed on America after its gold reserves have been stolen from Fort Knox.

[1] Though I'm curious how accurately this is being reported, vs what was really said. It's not that I doubt RP's willingness and ability to open up a whole can o' crazy at any time, just that I doubt the ability of most reporters to give me a straight reporting of anything out of the ordinary reported by anyone.

[2] Though "physically possible" doesn't really track well with politically acceptable rhetoric. Corn ethanol as a path to energy independence has been acceptable political rhetoric for some years now, despite not actually working in terms of the numbers.

#26 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2011, 12:23 PM:

Tom Whitmore @5 gives the link. There have been cases of bullion bars being found which were gold-plated tungsten. The density is identical to the third significant figure.

That's something I didn't know.

Assertions are made, about where these tungsten fakes might have been made, and how many, and oh boy what a mess. But it starts reading like a conspiracy theory. Events get linked and conjure up proof. At best, it's a good correlation. X and Y could be related. But somebody has been picking their examples. What of the events which don't get mentioned?

So, even if the weight is right, a surface-only test method wouldn't be enough.

#27 ::: Walter Hawn ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2011, 01:35 PM:

The best price number number I found for tungsten, after a quick search, was about $16 lb for the refined metal, or about $1.33 troy ounce, far below the 'value' of gold, which, if it weren't thought of as money, would have much lower value itself.

So, perhaps we could think of gold-plated tungsten bars as 'certificates,' place-holders for value yet to be found; not really counterfeit, at all, but a way to expand the supply of gold, such that we would not be crucified upon a cross of it?

#28 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2011, 05:14 PM:

Regarding the alleged production of tungsten bars masquerading as gold bars, I note that the article alleges around 16,000 tonnes of W was used around 15 years ago.
An easy sniff test to do in such cases is look at world supply of tungsten - which according to the internet was as high as 34,000 tonnes in the year 2000. Which in turn makes me wonder how nobody noticed 16,000 tonnes of tungsten magically turning into gold bar shaped objects. Maybe they weren't all coated, and maybe the standard shape and size of tungsten metal is the same as gold bars. But on the other hand, it raises some big doubts.

#29 ::: Gerald Fnord ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2011, 07:29 PM:

Yes, but is it protected from world-walking tinkers' getting in? What a shame that our government have been so lax in attending to their real duties whilst wasting their time and our monies keeping creative demi-gods from polluting as much as their Wills demand and keeping barely-literate men from falling into the rendering vats.

I'm no extremist---I allow that the Feds might not damn us all to Hell by keeping some poor child from starving---but until they get competent at everything the Founders wanted, including protecting the value of our gold by winning the War on Alchemy, they've no business attending to anything else, {mustard seed}-minute though it be....

#30 ::: Ken ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2011, 07:41 PM:

Can anyone explain to me why the US is still holding that much gold? Ron Paul aside, I would think most people realize that it isn't needed to back the currency any more.

#31 ::: Don Simpson ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2011, 10:04 PM:

Being a crazy guy, I have occasionally wondered idly about the national gold reserve and other such. There is certainly lots of money to be made in gold fraud (by governments, particularly, I would think), and it would seem strange if no actual frauds were being committed, or at least attempted. But I have no idea what the precautions against such things are (and, if the people making those precautions are smart, it would be difficult to find out). So, while there are plenty of conspirators about, and plenty of conspiracy theories possible, I'm just going to have to wait and see....

#32 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2011, 12:46 AM:

Goldbugs can be willing to entertain some fairly outré assertions about what goes on behind the scones at (eg) the Federal Reserve. They feel that fiat currency is faith-based, and faith can turn fickle in uncertain times, which these might be, give or take.

I actually bought some myself a while ago, and it has not only (so far) provided a healthy return, even after last week's slump, but has also failed to turn me into a libertarian, except to the extent that I already was one (re: drugs). I'll likely be kind of hosed if we hit hardcore deflation, but I won't want for the company which misery loves.

I reckon there should be some way of identifying the tungsten bars by measuring their response to a magnetic field somehow, I doubt gold has the same magnetic properties as tungsten. Failing that, I'm pretty sure gold's a better electrical conductor. You might need some sensitive equipment and blinkenlights, but if you figured it out you could probably make some pocket money if you went round the gun shows with a stand.

#33 ::: Don Simpson ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2011, 01:10 AM:

Smith @ 32 --

a large part of the "value" of metals is faith-based (really noticeably so, these days), and back in the 70s when I was charting metals prices for an employer and saw things like a blip that put silver higher than gold for a bit, I decided that things that can be traded quickly are quite fickle enough.

I like your gold-detection ideas. I wonder if gold has a different ultrasound profile. It's probably much easier to fake one property than two or more.

#34 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2011, 01:24 AM:

Looking for edge effects where the gold and tungsten meet might be more effective than looking at conductivity (and might well show up in an ultrasound profiling). The fact that the bars aren't uniform is probably easily detectable.

#35 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2011, 01:52 AM:

Back in the 1970s when I was on Kwajalein nearly every one of my co-workers was a serious gold bug, reading Harry Browne's newsletter regularly, buying Krugerrands and even opening Swiss bank accounts. Those guys, like me, were making about $5/hour. Room and board was paid for and there wasn't a lot of entertainment beyond water sports and bars, so even at those wages they had money to spare, and they invested it in gold. I think a Krugerrand was about $275 back then.

#36 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2011, 01:59 AM:

Thinking about it, tungsten is so much harder that a bar of it would probably "ring" at a noticeably higher note than a gold one when struck sharply, but that's not going to be the basis of a sustainable business model. Ultrasound would be worth a try though. Like you say, two or three properties for peace of mind, maybe thermal expansion, that looks to be about three times higher for gold.

#37 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2011, 03:51 AM:

So melt down a questionable gold bar. Tungsten has a melting point much, much greater than that of gold. Then you're only out the cost of recasting and re-certifying the gold bar.

#38 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2011, 04:04 AM:

I think people are sensitive about having their very expensive gold bars melted down in front of their eyes, plus the temperatures involved are considerable (1064C for gold according to the wikipedlo). We're looking for non-invasive here.

#39 ::: Doug Burbidge ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2011, 04:46 AM:

I suspect that since tungsten is much harder than gold, you could support the bar at both ends only, hang a weight from the middle, and measure how much it (elastically) bends under the load.

So: X-ray fluorescence, magnetic properties, response to ultrasound, "ringing", mechanical properties; even before we get invasive. If you can't tell a gold bar from a gold-clad tungsten bar you're not really trying. And if you're not really trying, it's probably because you're confident that the problem is of pretty limited scope.

#40 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2011, 05:17 AM:

For bending the bars, you'd be much better off with a frame and pneumatic press with appropriate attachement to measure stress and strain. Such things don't come cheap though*.

Does anyone know how thick the alleged gold coating is? If it is only a few tenths of a mm, then simply scratching the gold with a sharp implement might be enough.

Thermal expansion testing usually requires an expensive*, sensitive, hardly portable set of equipment and also requires a fair bit of time, (Many hours) to do it. You have to heat the sample up to an even temperature in the apparatus, measuring it's length at various temperatures.

I've been reading about alchemy and history of metals a lot over the last few years, and telling real from fake gold was kind of important. Back before the time of King Croesus, they didn't refine gold, so as far as anyone knew, the nuggets of native gold with around 10-20% silver were "gold". Then someone worked out how to purify it using a cementation process, and then they made coins out of it.
Of course, Archimedes was allegedly interested in density, and I can't recall if Pliny or others mention it in their writings, but when we get to the LEyden papyrus, a 3rd century AD Egyptian notebook about jewellers techniques, we have specific mention of a way of making a gold coating that is good for fooling people. You take lead and gold, grind them together into a paste with some organic stuff, smear it on the item you want, and then heat it. Lead vaporises, gold layer left on item. Allegedly it would fool even a test whereby you rub it on a flat smooth black stone and see what colour the streak is.

Of course that presumes nobody does the density test, but who is going to? there was also great demand for gold-ish substances because a) they weren't actually that sure that gold-1 was different from gold-2, since the colour was similar, and b) religious purposes required lots of gold things eg burial, but not everyone could afford real gold. In fact Egyptian craftsmen had been faking expensive looking objects, colours and metals for several thousand years.

So anyway, the streak test was the easiest way of testing gold for a thousand years. Other metals and alloys simply don't give a gold coloured streak. By the high medieval period, they knew also that gold could be extended under the hammer more easily than many other metals. If it cracked, it was an alloy. They also knew that only gold could survive being melted in a furnace, the ultimate in destructive testing. Anything other than gold would develop metallic oxides on the surface of the sample.

It then took a few hundred more years, until by the 16th century assaying was a fully grown science based upon careful sampling, weighing and calculation. And a furnace and a few other specialised pieces of equipment.

Oddly enough though, the earliest illustration of an analytical balance I have seen, i.e. a balance inside a glass case, is fron Thomas Norton's Ordinall of Alchemy, from 1477.

*There's that cost thing again. I think the most I ever managed to spend on testing was about £5,000, but that was because the management wanted it done - thermal conductivity testing is expensive and there's only about 2 decent labs in Europe that do it. The most i managed to persuade anyone to spend on a wee project or two in my line of work was about £300.

#41 ::: Neil W ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2011, 05:33 AM:

Serge @22 - presumably if by some mischance you were to become a supervillian, the first clues would be the disappearance of large quantities of fabric and the daring theft of Gainsborough portraits.

#42 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2011, 05:36 AM:

Does anyone know how thick the alleged gold coating is?

They're supposedly electroplated, that's going to be...fairly thin I would imagine.

If it is only a few tenths of a mm, then simply scratching the gold with a sharp implement might be enough.


#43 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2011, 07:14 AM:

If only electroplated, then a hand held XRF would do the job nicely. The depth of penetration of x-rays depends on energy, but enough would get through to show a distinctive W peak, I'm sure.

#44 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2011, 12:59 PM:

Serge @ #22:

That would be "Peer Review" by Michael Stackpole. Which has the interesting postscript that the hero of that story went on to become a significant supporting character in an actual superhero comic.

#45 ::: Margaret Organ-Kean ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2011, 01:27 PM:

I think if you didn't want your theft/counterfeiting of gold items to be detected, you wouldn't bother with gold plating. It's really thin, and can be easily scratched off.

I'd think that replacing a quarter of the bar with another material might work better. Not so much money gained, but much less chance of detection.

Or why even have the materials remain discrete? Take out half the bar, keep 2/3 of that, use 1/3 of that to mix with a reasonable alloy, and clad it with the remaining half of the original bar.

#46 ::: JeanOG ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2011, 02:10 PM:

#14 Ken Houghton: Sam's UFOlogist

#47 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2011, 04:11 PM:

"Goldbricking" was a popular scam in the 19th century.

The way it works: You have a bunch of gold-painted bricks. You have one with a plug in it filled with actual gold. You tell the mark that you've acquired the gold by extra-legal means, and therefore need a partner who will buy them at a steep discount, that being him. He can then resell the gold at his leisure at a huge profit.

Just to show everything is on the up-and-up, you take your gimmicked brick and allow the mark to select any jeweler and go together with him to the place. You drill the test bore hole in the brick in the place where you've placed the melted-down gold coins (which you probably pick-pocketed anyway), the jeweler tests it and finds it to be gold, and money changes hands.

All's well!

The mark can't go to the police because he was knowingly trying to buy stolen goods. He's now the proud owner of a bunch of gold-painted bricks.

Go you, gold-bricker!

#48 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2011, 06:05 PM:

That reminds me, despite the various scams described in Charteris' "Saint" novels, I don't recall any involving gold. Mind you there were quite a few of them and I may have forgotten them.

For an even older example, see Chaucer's Canon's Yeoman's tale, which described exactly how to sell someone a fake elixir. Involving sleight of hand, cunning and the use of pure silver to convince the mark.

#49 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2011, 09:41 PM:

To goldbrick is also slang for shirking one's responsibilities and/or loafing on the job.

#50 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2011, 10:22 PM:

These "good delivery" bars are intended to be traceable. Therefore they have serial numbers and other info stamped/pressed into them.

The numbers and marks normally stamped on a gold bar are actually fairly deep, per the pictures I've seen. If the tungsten dummy were thinly electroplated, a good optical examination of the marks would be a giveaway. The bottom of the marking would not be the right shape.

The article linked at #5 speaks of bars "gutted and filled with tungsten." I can't see ways of doing that without leaving visible marks. At least ways that would not damage the markings on the bar. Other sources suggest electroplating.

When you're dealing with a bar of metal that's been cast all in one, even if you cut and welded it perfectly, either X-ray or ultrasound would show the join line, especially when you introduce a different metal.

Since some bars are 999.9 fineness, the density could be rigged - a small osmium slug in with the tungsten to average out, but ultrasound would be a quick giveway - it's not going to be homogenous.

Googling for this story turns up lots of fringe sources but so far I don't see any reputable ones... Smells of urban legend, conspiracy theory, etc. It's from Ron Paul, after all.

#51 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2011, 11:55 PM:

Even if you don't trust the Fed, gold wouldn't be the first place that I'd start an audit. Why mess with something heavy and hard to fence when the fed can make some entries in a database and loan out the money they just made. I'd look at TARP and the other programs they were running then.

#52 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2011, 01:51 AM:

Don, #33: As a rule of thumb, whenever you see the price of a certain commodity jumping around a lot in the medium term, it's the result of speculation. I'm having to deal with this right now WRT the price of sterling silver, which has more than doubled over the last 18 months. I am NOT a happy camper at the moment, and would cheerfully isolate the speculators on an island* hundreds of miles from any kind of ship traffic.

* But not a desert island. I don't want to kill them, just to keep them from messing with the economy.

#53 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2011, 08:03 AM:

eric @#51: Why mess with something heavy and hard to fence when the fed can make some entries in a database and loan out the money they just made.

For one thing, gold isn't hard to fence, at least if you have an amateur jeweler around--make it into wedding rings, and you're set.

And for another, for the kind of scammer with a vestigial conscience, the fact that the Fed wouldn't actually be hurt would be a bonus. Be easier to convince yourself you weren't a bad person, that way.

#54 ::: Tangurena ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2011, 09:39 AM:

Two of my favorite quotes from the Bond movie franchise come from that movie:

Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it's enemy action.


No, Mr. Bond. I expect you to die.

But getting back to the reason for the audit, the only time anyone outside of Treasury employees were allowed inside the depository was in 1974, which was the only time Congress got to make a visual inspection of the gold stored there. The gold might still be there. Or the gold might have been sold. No one outside of the organization going "trust us" knows for sure - and the real estate bubble and resulting financial meltdown were due to lots of unaccountable organizations saying "trust us".

As much as I dislike the guy, Reagan's trust, but verify is something that applies here.

#55 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2011, 10:10 AM:


Yeah, RP is definitely right that the Fed is overly secretive and has a lot of power without much accountability[1]. However, everything about stealing the gold from Ft Knox as a threat screams "movie plot" to me.

[1] And this is largely by design, in order to prevent the money supply being under direct political control.

#56 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2011, 07:10 PM:

Lee@52 - * But not a desert island. I don't want to kill them, just to keep them from messing with the economy.

So you're thinking maybe Manhattan or Long Lsland?

#57 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2011, 08:07 PM:

Bill, #56: Note that neither of those locations would fit my original specification of "hundreds of miles from any kind of ship traffic". :-)

I also should have explicitly specified "and with no Internet access".

#58 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2011, 08:22 PM:

Meanwhile, at Fort Ducks...

#59 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2011, 09:40 AM:

Tangurena @ #54:

That movie also inspired one of my favourite XKCD cartoons.

#60 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2011, 10:44 AM:

"Do you expect me to soak?"
"No, Mister Bond. I expect you to dye."

#61 ::: Don Simpson ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2011, 07:10 PM:

Lee @ 52: Exactly. The platinum market, as I recall, had a fairly hefty compulsory delay between any order to buy or sell and the actual event, which damped the chart nicely. In gold and silver, thousands of people and computer algorithms, all trying to outguess all the other ones (and, which is the truly bizarre part, all assuming that this was possible), produced a chaotic mess. And, currently, the rush to invest in precious metals as a hedge against inflation has greatly, and unevenly, inflated the price of precious metals. Most of the jewelry I make these days is stone or bone or antler or wood, etc., but I do like to use solid sterling fasteners and such, and it's getting to be impractical.

#62 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2011, 07:55 PM:

In a somewhat-related story, "Is the nation waiting with bated breath for us to get to the Calvin Coolidge coin?"

Over $1B in dollar coins is sitting in vaults and more made every month.

#63 ::: Matt McIrvin ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2011, 12:23 AM:

Some soda machines take 'em. If you put in a dollar coin and then push the coin return button, some of these machines will change them for quarters, which you can use in the vending machines that don't take them, or any way you like.

#64 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2011, 12:40 AM:

Most post offices give them in change when one buys stamps from their vending machines. And there is one numismatically interesting feature in the Presidential dollar coins. If you get one -- find the date and mint mark. They are in a place that no other series of US coins has used. "In God We Trust" is in the same place, leading to the early coins being called "Godless".

#65 ::: Russ ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2011, 08:17 AM:

Adrian Smith@3: Goldbugs can be willing to entertain some fairly outré assertions about what goes on behind the scones at (eg) the Federal Reserve

Well, it may be that some fat rascal sandwiched counterfeit bars in there, but you'd be nutty as a fruitcake to think so now that the hatches are batten(berg)ed down.

#66 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2011, 04:43 PM:

It's a simple problem with a simple solution; tried, true, and obvious.

If the U.S. people have the choice between $1 bills and $1 coins, they will keep the bills because they know them, and <all the usual "reasons"> (note, some of them are in fact advantages, even we Canucks will admit). If they don't have the choice, they'll use the $1 coins, because it's what they have. And they will find, like everybody else that has done this, that

it isn't really a big deal, and
after 5 years or so, they'll never want to go back to a wad of paper that can, barely, buy them a meal.

But while people have a choice, they'll by and large choose tradition - especially because people manufacturing will manufacture for tradition, too, so the bills are, in fact, easier. When the companies *know* they'll need to accept $1 (and $2, shhh) coins, they'll do it, no fear, and suddenly, the coins will be easier, again.

#67 ::: Kevin Reid ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2011, 04:59 PM:

Whenever I get cash at my bank rather than an ATM — which does not happen very often — I get some dollar coins. Just for the variety.

They mostly end up in tips. I hope I'm not annoying anyone.

#68 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2011, 05:16 PM:

Kevin Reid @67 -- I know some fans who use dollar coins and $2 bills for tipping at conventions to attempt to show the impact of "fannish money" on the local economy. The uncommon specie makes people notice in a way that standard fare doesn't.

#69 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2011, 07:08 PM:

Mycroft, #66: Yes. Much the same thing applies to switching from English to metric units. If we just bit the bullet and DID it, people would grouse about it for a few years and then they'd be used to it and wouldn't think about it any more.

(Although I once heard someone in the grocery store asking an employee to get "one of the BIG 2-liter bottles" -- pointing at the 3-liters -- down off the top shelf in the soda aisle, which suggests that "2-liter" is now considered by some to be the shape rather than the size.)

#70 ::: Tangurena ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2011, 07:12 PM:

The dollar coin (and 50 cent coin) issue is a great example of "path dependence" - how things got limited because of choices someone else made long ago. The folks who made "coin acceptors" [1] decided in the 1950s that they were unwilling to give 95 cents change for a dollar coin (or 45 cents change for a 50 cent piece), so they designed the coin acceptors to reject them. It wasn't until the mid 90s that coin acceptors started getting made which would take them [2]. Only recently have the folks making acceptors started taking $1 coins.

Because the coins are rare, like $2 bills, cash register drawers don't have room for them. Because most retailers are not willing to spend money replacing all their cash registers [3], any such currency they get tends not to be given back out to customers getting change [4].

1 - A coin acceptor is the part of a vending machine that takes the coins that it deems valid, and tells the machine how much was fed in.
2 - Some politician made the Post Office take them in their machines.
3 - At the price these things cost, it is not a surprise.
4 - A lot of cashiers put $2 bills under the register alongside the $50s & $100s. When I go to the RenFest, I pay for almost everything with $2s, but those folks hand them immediately to the next guy needing change, and most of those are tickled at getting something as change they almost never see.

#71 ::: CZEdwards (aka the Other Constance) ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2011, 09:37 PM:

Tangurena @ 70:

As far as the cash register drawer coin bins... every register I've ever worked around* had at least five bins, though only four were used for loose coins. (The fifth usually held either paper clips or rubber bands, or rolled coins.) However... there's actually a rather simple solution, though not one I expect to see in my lifetime: quit the penny at the same time we roll out the dollar coin.

Given the price of copper and zinc and the diminishing stocks of copper, I'm more than ready to learn to live with rounding. It doesn't seem to be hurting most of the rest of the world, after all.

*It has been several years since I was in daily contact with such machines.

#72 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2011, 11:18 PM:

Yes, I totally understand "path dependence" - but look what it's caused:

Because there are no dollar coins for pop that costs $2.75/bottle, every single machine of note has *bill acceptors*, or a side change machine, that delivers $5 in quarters for a $5 bill. Advantage what? But still we don't accept the coin. And we *need* the bill acceptors for the $1s, because nobody has $2.75 in change.

Except that in Canada, they do. And in Canada, there may be the one bill acceptor, but it spits out three coins, not 20, for a fiver.

2. Oddly enough, there's enough room in the $1 bill slot for a tray that manages lots and lots of $1 coins. Or, if you do what likely would be done (as happened Oop North), companies make these handy slot dividers - a tray that has two, coin-size divisions, that fits very nicely into a bill slot, that contain both the $1 *and* the $2 coins.

But none of that will happen when the bills are still out there and being made. It just won't.

Strangely enough "it was not until the mid-90's that coin acceptors were being made to accept $1 coins"...the loonie came out in 1987, and the $1 bill stopped being made in 1989. "Its size was (and remains) almost identical to the [] Susan B. Anthony [] dollar..." (note: the rest of Canadian coinage is also "almost identical" - almost certainly so that only minor changes in coin acceptors would allow/reject Canadian cash. U.S. coin has "always" been acceptable 1:1 in Canada)
I wonder...

#73 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 02:15 AM:

Won't the trouser manufacturers have to start lining mens' pants pockets with leather if we go to a $1 coin?

#74 ::: Antongarou ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 08:28 AM:

Linkmeister, could you unpack the reasoning behind this please? I'm not a USian and never lived there for any length of time as an adult.

#75 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 08:48 AM:

I can answer that for you, Antongarou.

It's traditional for men to carry their loose change in their pockets and bills in their wallets. More coins means more loose change, hence the need for stronger pockets.

#76 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 11:55 AM:

If you coat the tungsten blanks in a thick enough layer of gold, many non-intrusive methods will not work. If it is plating, just hit it. Get a hallmark punch (perhaps of a fetching likeness of Ron Paul) and try it on a bar. If it is gold plate over tungsten, it will leave little or no mark.

Another non-intrusive approach could be magnetic susceptibility. All you would need is an Evans balance big enough to handle a 400 ounce bar.

"I was going to put the MRI trailer back, detective, just as soon as I made sure that all the gold in Fort Knox was genuine. Trust me."

#77 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 05:45 PM:

Antongarou, Carrie S. has it right. I'd just add that presumably $1 coins will also be heavier than the quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies we men carry in our pants pockets now, thus creating a need for stronger pocket material.

#78 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 06:01 PM:

The current dollar coins are not much heavier than the current quarters (and nowhere near as heavy as the old silver dollars or $20 gold pieces). Not a strong argument, Linkmeister.

#79 ::: Neil W ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 06:14 PM:

I have to say, here in the UK, with £1 and £2 coins*, about once a year my oldest and favourist trousers at the time do tend to get a hole in the change pocket. I note that I tend to carry quite a lot of coins compared to men I know, and my wallet usually sits on top, pushing them down. That said, I suspect the thinner edged coins, which are usually the lower denominations.

* In earlier times the £2 coins were known as beer tokens as you could buy a pint in a pub with them. Sadly no longer (except for a pub my Mum was in in Wales earlier this year).

#80 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 07:16 PM:

Tom Whitmore @ #78, I did say "presumably." I have no data to work with, not having had anything but a single Sacajawea coin in my possession over the past ten years.

#81 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 08:51 PM:

It's traditional for men to carry their loose change in their pockets and bills in their wallets.

It is indeed difficult. Fanny packs (UK readers please forbear) are not businesslike. A murse is too metrosexual for some, and can only be conveniently carried in a suit jacket pocket, which is a problem in summer, when you'd have to hold it, and a murse-snatching incident would be too much to bear. The only solution is (some working equivalent of) bitcoins loaded directly into the cerebral cortex, activated by tapping on your temples in Morse code. Or a sporran.

#82 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 09:45 PM:


I'm all for sporrans, with or without kilts.

Am also all for gender equality in having one more goddamn thing to keep up with all the time.

I haven't seen any of the new dollar coins yet - I have a few of the golden ones in a box someplace along with a handful of Suzie B's; used to get them regularly in change at the post office years ago, and nowhere else, but they spent as well as anything, except in vending machines, /except/ the vending machines at the post office, which is where a lot of them ended up.

I'd rather have a dollar coin than a manky dollar bill that the vending machine won't take.

#83 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 09:54 PM:

Linkmeister #77: Funny, I haven't had that problem so much with coins -- it was always my keys that cut holes in my pocket, until I got an enclosed keyholder.

#84 ::: Susie ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 10:52 PM:

New Jersey Transit and SEPTA (southeast Pennsylvania) ticket vending machines give dollar coins in change. I'm always tickled to be able to replenish my supply when I visit there. And friends in the Boston area love having them for Mass Pike tolls.

#85 ::: J Homes ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 11:04 PM:

@75 and subsequent: It's traditional for men to carry their loose change in their pockets and bills in their wallets.

Odd. Every wallet I have ever possessed has included a compartment for coins (with, of course, a closure), and that is what I have used. Loose in the pocket? No, that would wear a hole in the pocket.

J Homes.

#86 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 11:27 PM:

Adrian @ 81

Hence the widespread use of backpacks. Why is this a problem that requires a new solution?

#87 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2011, 12:02 AM:

A backpack for wallet and change? Seems like overkill.

#88 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2011, 08:17 AM:

Every wallet I have ever possessed has included a compartment for coins (with, of course, a closure), and that is what I have used.

Yeah, mine too, and they're almost totally useless. The designers are more concerned with keeping the relatively slim line of the wallet than with making a coin compartment that will hold more than two dimes at a time.

Perhaps I lack the requisite space-folding skills. :)

#89 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2011, 08:36 AM:

Women's wallets have changepurses built in; men's wallets do not. I have found wallets with sizable compartments for change, but it took some searching.

What I really like, but could *not* find the last time I needed a new wallet, is the kind with a clasp opening on one end for change (instead of a snap compartment inside) with the bill opening on the right when the change part is pointing up. I'm sorry, I'm right handed, I don't want the bill opening on the left--but that's all they were making for a while. The kind that open the right way are now available again. I don't even need a new wallet right now, but I'm tempted to buy two, just to stock up.

#90 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2011, 08:06 PM:

Apparently owners of iShinies are being driven to manbags in large numbers. And backpacks, probably.

#91 ::: CZEdwards (aka the Other Constance) ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2011, 11:11 PM:

Re: coins and other pocket cruft:

When my partner started carrying coins again, we went through three phones in under a year thanks to poor pocket design and construction. And then we we're in McGuckins (the hardware store of the gods in Boulder) and I found one of those oval rubber squeeze purses like my grandfather kept his change in. I had not seen one since the early 80's, when my grandfather's last one finally cracked apart. Those little things are possibly made of TARDIS fragments, or are the original Portable Hole -- they hold several days' meter money/coffee funds. Given the current delight for all things retro, I am surprised they're not making a bigger comeback, given their utility as phone protectors.

#92 ::: VCarlson ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2011, 12:02 AM:

@89 Mary Aileen - and, tangential to that, how 'bout those women's folding wallets with zippered change compartments designed so the accordion part at the open end of the zipper (which becomes loose with use) points *down* when you open it to take bills out, engendering a cascade of dimes and pennies?

I bitched mightily about this when in the market for a new wallet (which means separated by years), and would get either get "but that's the company standard" or a blank look.

My current wallet is much too gaudy for my taste, but the zipper opens on the reasonable side, so I bought it. And am still looking for the zipper pull in the wrong place.

#93 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2011, 02:16 AM:

CZ Edwards @ #91, Amazon sells those things. The supplier is US Toy, which sells them directly: $3.49/dozen. If I had a dollar store I'd buy a few hundred and sell them at a buck apiece.

#94 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2011, 02:19 AM:

The wallet I've been using for the last 10 years or so is very functional. Open the zipper, and you have 2 accordion compartments; I use one for change and the other for immediate-access folding money and a few frequent-eater cards (mostly from bubble-tea shops). Unsnap the snap, and you have a handy set of slots for credit-card-sized thingies and access to the place where the rest of the folding money stays. And there's a convenient slot on the outside for my driver's license and related items (insurance card, AAA card, and a couple of public-transportation cards from other cities). Yeah, it's about 1.5" thick, but in a purse (or in my belt-pack) that's not the kind of issue that it would be in a pocket. I bought it at a Wilson Leather outlet.

And yes, I've got 2 more of them stashed away against the time when this one wears out. I've also got a couple more belt-packs in reserve, since the style I like is no longer readily available.

#95 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2011, 11:22 AM:

Adrian #90:

This iShiny owner is driven away from briefcases (never use a backpack) to ever-smaller tote bags; in current local weather, one does not wish to leave one's shiny in a hot car, even in the trunk or under a seat, and if one is doing shopping, briefcases are suspect. Fancy fabric purse w/top zipper, roughly A4/letter size, bought years ago at museum, saves the day, but I really need to design my own with more pockets including one that corrals iShiny a bit better.

(I seem to remember reading somewhere, in an article on the history of Savile Row, that gentlemen are now asking for rather large pockets of a certain size for their suit jackets, to contain those magic electronic devices.)

#96 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2011, 02:50 PM:

IIRC, Goldfinger's real plot wasn't to steal the gold, but to irradiate it with a small nuclear weapon, on the basis that this would take all the gold in Fort Knox off the market - because who'd want to buy hot gold? - and thus make his own holdings of gold much more valuable.

I don't think this would really have worked since, as Linkmeister pointed out, the gold is never actually removed from the vault at all. It's never sold, and it's probably never going to be sold, so its irradiation wouldn't have affected the supply and demand of gold at all.

interesting point from Linkmeister's link: "The gold is held as an asset of the United States at book value of $42.22 per ounce."
That's not very much.

#97 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2011, 12:27 AM:

ajay @ #96:

In the film, yes. In the original novel, his plan really was to steal the gold, but the filmmakers realised this wasn't practicable (IIRC Bond gets a speech in the film explaining why).

#98 ::: Don Simpson ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 01:37 AM:

I have a small (about 3 x 3 inches)flat coin purse of heavy black leather held shut by a pair of internal leaf springs. It works beautifully, but I don't know where I could get a replacement. Also a selection of shoulder-strap-equipped pouches of various sizes, some of which were originally intended as camera cases. This array was started decades ago when I realized that I had too much nerd gear for my pocket protector.

#99 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 10:38 AM:

Don Simpson (98): Vermont Country Store sells those.

#100 ::: Neil W ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 01:44 PM:

Ajay @96 I don't think this would really have worked since, as Linkmeister pointed out, the gold is never actually removed from the vault at all. It's never sold, and it's probably never going to be sold, so its irradiation wouldn't have affected the supply and demand of gold at all.

"Fort Knox was attacked earlier today by international mercenaries using nerve gas and a nuclear device. Although the gold reserves are mostly intact, they cannot be safely handled by unprotected personnel and will remain untouchable by human hand for 10,000 years. A spokesman from the Treasury said that since the gold was still present, the government would not be revaluing it's gold reserves. He urged the financial markets to remain calm and for the public not to panic."

Then the financial markets remain calm and the public doesn't panic! Life goes on as normal, except in the country suspected of harbouring Goldfinger which experiences a brief police action from the US armed services.

This, at least, is more plausible than Bond's relationship with Pussy Galore in the book.

#101 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 02:13 PM:

The ticket machines in the commuter rail system I use return dollar coins (not paper bills) as part of their change routine (sounds like a jackpot when they do). Maybe vending machine manufacturers don't want to deal with it, but they should.

#102 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 02:17 PM:

How about having women's wallets with accordions on the change pocket at all? Mine has a dinky zipper on one side, and doesn't open up enough to stick more than finger and thumb in. Useless for change, which is why mine ends up in my pocket.

#103 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 02:17 PM:

Having just done a couple of quick calculations based on Linkmeister's link @3, which says gold is valued at $42.22 per ounce in Fort Knox and there are 147 million ounces there -- that's currently an asset that's undervalued on the books to the tune of well over $200 billion. How come nobody in the gov't is looking to cut our paper national debt by that much (by allowing gold to be valued at par)? I know I'm being naive here....

#104 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 07:20 PM:

ajay @ 96:

I hadn't thought about this before, but there's another reason why the scheme wouldn't work: irradiating gold with neutron flux, which is basically what a nuke would do, would transmute some percentage of the 197Au to 198Au, which has a half-life of less than 3 days, so the gold would only be dangerous for a couple of weeks at most1.

1. At some point during the Cold War some nuclear bomb designer proposed encasing a bomb in gold to increase the radioactivity of the bomb's fallout for a few days. So far as I know, no one ever built such a bomb, which surprises me a little; it sounds like the perfect military-industrial boondoggle: expensive yet deadly.

#105 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 09:58 AM:

How come nobody in the gov't is looking to cut our paper national debt by that much (by allowing gold to be valued at par)?

Because the gold price is pretty volatile, and no one wants to be in the position of having the value shoot up and down every day like a [NAUTICAL METAPHOR] depending on the vagaries of the commodity markets. And repricing it at a new fixed book value closer to the real value would lead to shouts of "Cheat!" from the other side.

Also, because the national debt wouldn't be affected - it's the total amount of money the government has borrowed, it's not the balance of the government's total assets and liabilities.

#106 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 02:56 PM:

Bruce @ 104 - note that 198Au decays in part to 198Hg (but mostly back to 197Au1); probably an amalgam results.

That gold bomb would have been nasty, gold's fairly bio-active.

1ObSF, someone wrote, and John Campbell published in Astounding, a straight historical novella about exploration and conquest in search of "the power isotope, 1978Au. Was that George O. Smith?

#107 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 06:47 PM:

It was "Despoilers of the Golden Empire", by Randall Garrett.

#108 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 12:48 PM:

One thing I will say about change is that having the bigger (and larger-value) coins leads to *less* coins (although, I will grant, more weight, by a bit), because your coins are worth something.

Remember when you dumped out your changepurse of 1/4 pound of stuff, and it was about enough to buy a coffee? If I do that, I've got $15/$20. So instead of it being metal I have to carry, I know how much (to the nearest $1) I have in change, and when I'm asked for $7, I hand over the $5 and the toonie. Since I'm there anyway, I also try to kill the <$1 stuff, too.

So, actually, I keep fewer coin than I probably would in the US if I hadn't been trained by the almighty loonie. And I'm not alone.

Also, while I don't see the egg-shaped coin purses very often (and I'd grab one if I could remember *one*more*thing* to bring in the morning), things do tend to get built for $5 or so in canadian coin up here. What I do see is the kind of locking spring-loaded change holder you can stick in your car for tolls and parking.

#109 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 09:16 PM:

My experience with US dollar coins in pockets is that not only are they heavy, but when I have them it's usually because some change-dispensing machine gave me LOTS of them. Train fare was about $10 when I was last commuting, and if I didn't have nearly-exact change, I'd be paying with a $20 bill from a cash machine, so I'd get about 10 coins in change. Stamp machines at the post office similarly want to give you change in dollar coins when you're buying ~$5-10 of stamps.

And while the city of San Jose has now fixed this, I remember the first time I was at one of their parking meters which said it was a quarter for 15 minutes, $1 for an hour, I was going to be there two hours, and when I put the dollar coin in the machine it jammed, because it didn't mean "$1 coin for an hour", it meant "give me lots of quarters".

#110 ::: Don Simpson ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2011, 12:12 AM:

Mary Aileen @ 99 -- Thank you. I will get a least one of those for future use. :)

#111 ::: TexAnne sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2011, 11:32 PM:

Cheerful, and ever so "hpeflul"! I think we have a new synonym for "helpy."

#112 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2011, 12:57 PM:

Lee, thanks for recommending Wilson Leather. Now I've got a wallet I'm happy with. For some reason, just poking around online wasn't turning up much, but going to a Wilson Leather outlet worked.

Does anyone know of a good coin counter? I checked at amazon, and the most reviewed coin counters there got some negative reviews for being inaccurate.

#113 ::: Henry Troup sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2014, 11:10 PM:

I have one US dollar coin, and a lot of Canadian loonies, none for spammers.

#114 ::: Cadbury Moose spots spam ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2014, 08:27 AM:

"Annefaulk" is clearly stuck in an echo chamber.

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