Washington or Will Smith? Placing Celebrities on US Money

For most Americans, money is associated with great political figures throughout history. In fact, it’s common to refer to currency as “dead presidents” because the link is so strong. But some people feel that it’s time for a change. They want to update U.S. coins to feature the images of iconic celebrities, instead of politicians and office holders. This is a controversial idea involving ideas of national prestige, educational standards and American heritage.

The Case Against the Change

For many people, the idea of putting faces like those of Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley or Madonna on the national currency is absurd, because:

1.) Coins should reflect a sense of permanence and stability. But, as everyone knows, nothing is more fleeting than fame. Today’s beloved celebrity is tomorrow’s forgotten has-been. This will one day even be true of names like Bing Crosby and Mae West. In fact, many younger Americans already have no idea who those people were.

2.) Coins have great educational value just as they are, and that would be destroyed should the images be changed. Lincoln’s face on the penny, for instance, has started many discussions and classroom lessons about this great American and what he stood for.

3.) Altering the nation’s coins would cause added expense to an already overburdened national budget. New molds would have to be created, old ones destroyed, and a public education campaign would have to be launched to prepare the public for change. Surely there are better uses for tax dollars than spending them on a frivolous project like this.

The Case For the Change

Supporters of the idea say that it reflects both societal changes and the important roles that show business and entertainment play in American culture.

They make the following points:

1.) America’s coins have been changed many times in the past. For example, at many times in history, they have been made of different metals at the and featured other images than the ones used today. For example, in 1981 Congress changed the most common metal in pennies from copper to zinc. Also, John F. Kennedy didn’t appear on the half dollar until 1964. Another move like this would have many people going to companies, such as US Money Reserve, to sell their gold and silver. Given that change is inevitable, why not consider updating the currency?

2.) Many celebrities have become as famous as presidents and other politicians if not more so. Elvis is a perfect example. Tens of thousands of people still flock to Graceland every year, even though he passed away in 1977. Entertainers like him have earned their place in American history; why not update the coins to reflect that?

3.) The change would generate publicity, renewing the public’s interest in both America’s currency and its history. Young people in particular would enjoy seeing faces they are familiar with, rather than those of long-dead historical figures. They would know celebrities have influenced the country in many ways, and that would encourage them to pursue creative careers in fields like singing or acting.

Jefferson Won’t Be Replaced With J. Lo — Not Yet

The idea of updating the currency with celebrity faces is too radical in the minds of most people to take seriously. No one knows what the future will bring, however. The day may yet come when it’s Frank Sinatra and not Ben Franklin whose face appears on the $100 bill. Time will tell.

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