Where’s the Motto? Revisiting an urban legend

By Bobby Horn Jr.

I love urban legends and folklore. They have got to be my favorite styles of literature. We have all seen them, and probably told a few ourselves. That story that is so remarkable that it couldn’t be true but the storyteller swears it is. The strange occurrence that happened to a friend of a friend (called FOAF by folklorists). We know many of them: alligators in the sewer, the escaped mental patient with the hook hand, spider eggs in bubble gum.

I was happy when one arrived in the newspaper’s inbox this week related to the U.S. $1 coins and the apparent removal of the motto “In God We Trust.”

This is the text of that email:

“Refuse to accept these when they are handed to you. I received one from the Post Office as change and I asked for a dollar bill instead. The lady just smiled and said ‘way to go’, so she had read this e-mail. Please help out… our world is in enough trouble without this too!!!!! U.S.Government to Release New Dollar Coins You guessed it ‘IN GOD WE TRUST’ IS GONE!!! If ever there was a reason to boycott something, THIS IS IT!!!! DO NOT ACCEPT THE NEW DOLLAR COINS AS CHANGE. Together we can force them out of circulation.”

Let me put your minds at ease… this is an urban legend.

The story first appeared in the “Tallahassee Democrat” on Feb. 24, 2007. On June 19, 2007 the Associated Press ran an erroneous story about the U.S. Mint deliberately leaving off the nation’s motto.

The issue comes from the minting of a new Presidential series of dollar coins in 2007, in which the motto was printed on the edge of the coin rather than face like other coins.

However, many people not seeing the motto in its usual place assumed it was gone.

To be completely fair, a few coins escaped the U.S. Mint in 2007 without the motto. These were minting errors, not unknown in the minting process, and were not deliberate attempts.

So widespread was the rumor that congressional action was taken. When Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2008 it included language that the U.S. Mint return the motto to the face of the coins within a timely manner.

Since 2009 the motto has appeared on the face of the coins, including the 2010 set which will feature Presidents Fillmore, Pierce, Buchanan and Lincoln.

I thank the reader for sending me another urban legend for my collection, and I welcome other readers to send me their favorites as well.

Not all those who wander are lost– J.R.R. Tolkien