Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Snopes and Wikipedia Are Misleading About the Coins Issued Without National Motto

Every so often, we see - now on Facebook, earlier in email - an alert to refuse the "new dollar coins", saying that the United States' Official National Motto has been eliminated from them. Someone invariably posts a link to Snopes, claiming this is an urban legend.

The simple truth is that in 2007, anywhere from 100,000 to hundreds of thousands of new dollar coins were issued without the national motto. While most were the George Washington Dollars, there are also John Adams Dollars missing the motto.

Snopes, however, claims this is "False", even though way way WAY down the page, Snopes does finally admit that:    " (Small quantities of the George Washington and John Adams presidential dollars were discovered to be missing their edge inscriptions shortly after the initial release of those coins, but those examples were the result of minting errors and were not reflective of the new dollars' intended standard appearance."

And Wikipedia also perpetuates the fallacy that the ommission of "In God We Trust" from coins was just an urban legend: "An urban myth (wrongly) suggests that it was omitted from new U.S. dollar coins.[29]"

Recursively, the Wikipedia entry cites the Snopes entry as the source for calling it an "urban myth":
29 ^ "Historic Change", Snopes,

Both of these sources do themselves a disservice, because by omitting some of the facts, their statements lead people to believe it never happened, when in fact, an unknown number (estimated at the time to be at least 50,000 dollar coins but now believed to be at least twice that many and perhaps far more) were issued that did not have the official Motto "In God We Trust" on them - and the issuance was not due to mechanical error.

NBC News reported in 2007,  that  "An unknown number of new George Washington dollar coins were mistakenly struck without their edge inscriptions, including “In God We Trust,”

"[M]int spokeswoman Becky Bailey was unknown how many coins lacked the inscriptions. Ron Guth, president of Professional Coin Grading Service, one of the world’s largest coin authentication companies, said he believes that at least 50,000 error coins were put in circulation.

"Guth said it appeared from the roughly 50 smooth-edge dollars he has authenticated that the problem had to do with quality control rather than a mechanical error.

"“These coins are struck like normal coins, then they go through another machine that adds edge lettering in another process. These apparently skipped that process,” he said. “We’ve seen a couple of instances where the edge lettering may be weak or indistinct, but we’re not talking about that here.”"

By now, seven years later, these "Godless dollars" as they have come to be known in the coin collecting world, have proven to be very common, and estimates range from 100,000 to hundreds of thousands in existence.

While the Mint said they were investigating how the coins could have been released, no final statement was made about the results. The reaction to coins circulating without the motto, and with the "hidden" motto on the edge, was so serious that the next year Congress issued a requirement that "In God We Trust" be on the front of all coins, not relegated to the back or the edge.

Probably the omission was, as is now claimed, just an accident. Some one person or group of people removed coinage from the process flow so that it went into circulation without bearing the name of God.  We can accept that this was an accident, but accidents have consequences just as much as intentional actions do.

Here are a few other examples of governmental "accidents" involving the Name of God:

*In 2006, Capital tour guides were instructed to identify the Ten Commandments at the Supreme Court as "The 10 amendments" aka the Bill of Rights.

*In 2008,  the new Capital Visitor's Center, a half-billion dollar project, opened without "In God We Trust" in the usual places, such as removing it from a model of the House Speaker's Rostrum, and a large plaque proclaiming incorrectly that "E Pluribus Unum" was the motto.  The Visitor's Center designers also omitted the Pledge of Allegiance from any public place in the Center.   Congress had to aggressively pass legislation to force the Capital Architect to correct the deficiencies.

* In 2010 President Obama claimed, falsely, that E Pluribus Unum is the national motto, in a speech he made. The President refused to acknowledge or correct the error (which is why I say he claimed "falsely" instead of "mistakenly") and the uncorrected speech remains on the White House Website at this writing. There can't be confusion about this in the Wbite House, as even Snopes states, accurately, that In God We Trust is the only official national motto:
"The only legislatively established national motto the United States has ever had is "In God We Trust," a phrase which first appeared on U.S. coinage in 1864... and which was adopted as the official U.S. national motto through a law passed by Congress in 1956."   
I don't object to retaining the speech text as an accurate documentation of the words he said, but this White House is quick to erase errors they don't like so I doubt this error remains out of any concern for historical veracity.)

So maybe people who don't like God to be spoken of in the public square aren't deliberately getting history and language wrong.  Maybe they accidentally forget and give out their Social Security number when someone asks their phone number. Maybe they really don't know the difference between pasteurization and homogenization when they design milk cartons.

But there is no doubt that the "accident" of" "forgetting" what the official national motto of the United States is happens far too often to be ignored.

"In God We Trust" was used by Frances Scott Key in his original lyrics for the Star Spangled Banner, written Sept 14, 1814: "And this be our motto: 'In God is our trust'. ". It was published that same week and became immediately popular throughout the USA.

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