- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating is associate editor at Foreign Policy and the editor of the Passport blog. He has worked as a researcher, editorial assistant, and deputy Web editor since joining the FP staff in 2007. In addition to being featured in Foreign Policy, his writing has been published by the Washington Post, Newsweek International, Radio Prague, the Center for Defense Information, and Romania's Adevarul newspaper. He has appeared as a commentator on CNN International, C-Span, ABC News, Al Jazeera, NPR, BBC radio, and others. A native of Brooklyn, New York, he studied comparative politics at Oberlin College.
One of the more amusing sideshows of the debt-ceiling negotiations is the so-called "platinum coin option." Under this scenario, the president could sidestep Congress by exploiting a legal loophole that allows the Treasury to print platinum coins in any denomination it wishes. This is meant to allow the Treasury to mint commemorative coins, but there’s theoretically nothing stopping the president from just mining a $1 trillion coin to finance the government. Josh Barro makes the case for the $1 trillion coin here. Kevin Drum argues against it here. To be sure, the proposal is more of a "modest proposal," but it’s being taken seriously enough that one congressman has introduced legislation to close the platinum-coin loophole.
This got me curious: What’s the closest the world’s ever gotten to a $1 trillion coin?
First of all, it’s important to distinguish between the value of the metal and the value of the coin. As Barro makes clear, we’re not actually talking about $1 trillion worth of platinum, which would be absurd. (I know that’s a strong word to be throwing around in a discussion of $1 trillion coins, but work with me here.)
The most valuable coin in the world, face value aside, is probably the "flowing hair" $1 coin minted in 1794 and 1795 — the very first dollar coin issued by the U.S. government. One of these sold for $7.85 million in 2005.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest denomination monetary unit ever printed was the Z$100 billion banknote printed in Zimbabwe in 2008. In the midst of the country’s hyperinflation, it was enough to buy about one loaf of bread.
The highest denomination banknote in U.S. history was the $100,000 bill, ironically printed at the height of the Depression in 1934. It featured Woodrow Wilson’s face.
But the closest direct competition for the $1 trillion coin seems to be the 68-pound gold monster unveiled by Canada in 2007 with a face value of C$1 million. (About US$1.01 million.) The pizza-sized behemoth is 99.99 percent gold, meaning it’s probably worth about twice its face value. Only five were made.
I don’t know if it’s a solution to the budget crisis, but if nothing else, it’s time for the U.S. Treasury to take this super-loonie down a notch.
Blake Hounshell is managing editor at Foreign Policy, having formerly been Web editor. Hounshell oversees ForeignPolicy.com and has commissioned and edited numerous cover stories for the print magazine, including National Magazine Award finalist "Why Do They Hate Us?" by Mona Eltahawy. He also edits The Cable, FP's first foray into daily original reporting, and was editor of Colum Lynch's Turtle Bay, which in 2011 won a National Magazine award for best reporting in a digital format.
Blake joined Foreign Policy in 2006 after living in Cairo, where he studied Arabic, missed his Steelers finally win one for the thumb, and worked for the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies. Blake was a 2011 finalist for the Livingston Awards prize for young journalists for his reporting on the Arab uprisings, and his Twitter feed was named one of Time magazine's "140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2011." Under his leadership, in 2008, Passport, FP's flagship blog, won Media Industry Newsletter's "Best of the Web" award in the blog category. Along with Elizabeth Dickinson, he edited Southern Tiger: Chile's Fight for a Democratic and Prosperous Future, the memoirs of former Chilean president Ricardo Lagos, published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2012.
A graduate of Yale University, Blake speaks mangled Arabic and French, is an avid runner, and lives in Washington with his wife, musician Sandy Choi, and their toddler, David. Follow him on Twitter @blakehounshell.| Passport |
Budget day; Odierno: no more free coins; Locklear encouraged to talk to the Chinese; Amos issues a challenge; How to crowd source national security; Did Hagel just lose “latte money?”; and a little more.Gordon Lubold
Gordon Lubold is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He is also the author of FP's Situation Report, an e-mailed newsletter that is blasted out to more than 70,000 national security and foreign affairs subscribers each morning that includes the top nat-sec news, breaking news, tidbits, nuggets and what he likes to call "candy." Before arriving at FP, he was a senior advisor at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, where he wrote on national security and foreign policy. Prior to his arrival at USIP, he was a defense reporter for Politico, where he launched the popular Morning Defense early morning blog and tip-sheet. Prior to that, he was the Pentagon and national security correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, and before that he was the Pentagon correspondent for the Army Times chain of newspapers. He has covered conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries in South Asia, and has reported on military matters in sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia and Latin America as well as at American military bases across the country. He has spoken frequently on the sometimes-contentious relationship between the military and the media as a guest on numerous panels. He also appears on radio and television, including on CNN, public radio's Diane Rehm and To the Point, and C-SPAN's Washington Journal. He lives in Alexandria with his wife and two children.| Situation Report |