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Different Sizes Coming?
May 21, 2008

Yesterday's ruling in favor of the blind by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia means changes could be coming to American paper money.

Because current notes are all the same size regardless of denomination, the court said the Treasury was violating the Rehabilitation Act.

The Treasury can appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. It may do so, but the collector in me begins to speculate about notes of different sizes or notes with Braille characters.

My mind says different sizes is the preferred option, perhaps as a result of my experiences with euro notes in Germany, but even that isn't without its bumps. Euro countries don't have a 1. They have a coin. Will this occur in the United States as a result of a court ruling?

Europeans don't like the 5 because it is too small. It certainly is small, but I am more worried about notes being too big rather than too small.

Braille strikes me as too easily subverted either by fakers putting Braille for high denominations on low-denomination notes, or by crushing the raised areas.

Even if not deliberately crushed, how much wear can a note take before the Braille is not recognizable?

The gears in my mind are still turning. I am sure other collectors have other thoughts. We'll see over time how this all plays out. Of course, it might not be too long before we'll be spending gas ration coupons rather than paper money.

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About the Author
David C. Harper has been a coin collector since 1963. He joined the Krause Publications editorial staff in 1978 and is currently editor of Numismatic News and World Coin News. He also edits two books annually, North American Coins & Prices and Coin Digest. He is the author of the Class of '63 column that runs each week in Numismatic News. His first bylined numismatic article appeared in the June 1971 issue of Coins Magazine and his various Krause Publications assignments included a stint as editor of the magazine 1980-1983. Harper received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1977. He had a double major of journalism and economics.

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