Front Page Titles (by Subject) Withdrawal of Light Gold Coin. - Money and the Mechanism of Exchange
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Withdrawal of Light Gold Coin. - William Stanley Jevons, Money and the Mechanism of Exchange 
Money and the Mechanism of Exchange (New York: D. Appleton and Co. 1876).
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Withdrawal of Light Gold Coin.
Some steps must soon be taken to remedy the increasing deficiency of weight of the gold coinage described above. The withdrawal may no doubt be effected in several ways. One method would be for the Queen to issue a proclamation calling in and prohibiting the circulation of all gold coins more than twenty or twenty-five years old, as it is mostly the older coins which are deficient in weight. Another method would be to oblige all revenue officers, postmasters, and others, under the control of government, to weigh all sovereigns presented to them. If necessary, the bankers of the kingdom generally might be obliged to weigh coin. But it is obvious that great trouble and inconvenience would arise from such measures. The progress of the post-office savings banks would be imperilled if every depositor of a pound were liable to be charged 2 per cent. for lightness. Considerable excitement and trouble followed the issue of the last proclamation of June, 1842, calling in light gold. To make the last holder of a coin pay for the whole cost of its circulation during thirty or forty years past, leads in many cases to gross injustice. The present law tends to throw the loss upon the poor, who have usually only one or two sovereigns at a time to pay, whereas rich people, having many, can avoid paying light gold at offices where it will be weighed.
I hold that the only thorough remedy is for the government to bear the loss occasioned by the wear of the gold, as it already bears that of the silver currency. The Bank of England should be authorized to receive all sovereigns showing no marks of intentional damage or unfair treatment at their full nominal value, on behalf of the mint, which should recoin the light ones at the public expense. No one would then have any reason for keeping the light gold away from the bank; the currency would soon be purged of the illegally light coins, and would thenceforth be kept up strictly to the standard weight; all loss of time and trouble would be saved to individuals, a consideration which we should not lose sight of; and, lastly, no injustice would be done, as at present, to the last holder of a light sovereign.
In opposition to such a proposal it is usually urged, that encouragement would be given to the criminal practice of sweating or otherwise diminishing the weight of the currency. I answer that, on the contrary, it is the present state of things which gives the best opportunity for illegal practices, because it renders the population perfectly accustomed to handling old and worn coins. No one now actually refuses any gold money in retail business, so that the sweater, if he exists at all, has all the opportunities he can desire. I have met with sovereigns deficient to the extent of four to five grains, or 8d. to 10d., but they nevertheless circulate. If under a better system the gold currency consisted entirely of full-weight, fresh coins, with sharp, new, perfect impressions, attention would quickly be drawn to any coin which appeared to be worn or ill-treated in any degree. As the currency, too, would be constantly passing through the automaton weighing-machines of the Bank of England, without previously undergoing the operation of garbling by bullion brokers, sweated coins, if they existed at all, would soon be detected; whereas, according to the present system, the bank authorities have no opportunity of examining the whole coinage. It is the present state of things, then, which gives the best opportunity for tampering with the currency, though there is no evidence to show that fraudulent practices are carried on to any appreciable extent. Under the proposed new system such practices would be rendered almost impossible.