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Coins and Paper Money
US Presidents

Why are some presidents on two forms of currency coin and paper and others not?

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October 03, 2008 1:10AM

The decisions about who appears on coins and bill are made by two separate agencies - the U.S. Mint and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. In addition members of Congress can and do have considerable input into the process with lobbying and plain old political pressure. Delegations from each state often come together to press for a particular person or image.

For example, the Virginia delegation used parliamentary tactics to hamstring Congress when the Mint proposed new designs for the nickel in 2003. The delegation claimed that any attempt to change the nickel would "dishonor" Jefferson; they held up lawmaking until the House and Senate agreed on a bill that would force the Mint to restore the image of Monticello after the Lewis and Clark series ended, and retain Jefferson's portrait essentially forever.

This extreme politicization has meant that many other worthy individuals have not been featured on coins, and that designs have been difficult to change except as part of limited runs such as the State Quarter program. By contrast other countries' coins and bills have honored scientists, authors, humanitarians, and more.