Dear US Mint: Pump Your Brakes

| Tue Feb. 17, 2009 11:00 AM EST

The US Mint is completely out of control. Most recent illustration: the release of four (4!) new pennies commemorating the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth. The first, shown at the right, is already in production. Here are details:

The first coin, nicknamed the "Kentucky Penny," features an image of one-room log cabin where Lincoln was born on Feb. 12, 1809, near Hodgenville, Ky....
The second design, the "Indiana Penny," features an image of a young Lincoln taking a break from his work as an Indiana rail splitter. It will find its way into pockets and change purses starting May 14.

The "Illinois Penny," marking Lincoln's work as a state legislator, will start dropping into tip jars Aug. 13.

And the fourth penny, with an image of the unfinished U.S. Capitol dome, makes its debut Nov. 12. The unfinished dome symbolizes the nation torn apart by the Civil War and Lincoln's resolve to bring it back together.

And just in case that wasn't enough, the Mint is also producing 500,000 commemorative Lincoln silver dollars. This is officially Minters Gone Wild. Tourists visiting America already have to deal with the fact that our quarters have over fifty different images on the back, many of which are obscure references to local tourist attractions. (Some don't even exist any more!) There are two different versions of Jefferson on our nickles, there are dollar and half-dollar coins you've never heard of, and starting in 2010 the US Mint is going to start featuring national parks on our quarters. Did you know that there are $10 coins featuring famous first wives?

Enough! The pictures on the back of our coins ought to mean something. I know this is a bizarre place to make a stand for tradition, but we're now printing coins with middling Presidents Harrison, Tyler, Polk, and Taylor on them. At this point, the national Mint is like a frantic crack addict, looking desperately for a new fix that it knows it will enjoy less than the last. Consider this an intervention, Mint. Go check yourself into rehab before we find you sprawled out in a gutter surrounded by dimes with pictures of Grover Cleveland's private commode on the back.

Update: This post was originally titled "Dear US Mint: Pump Your Breaks," because I am an idiot.