Did You Know That Coca Cola Lobbied for 7.5 Cent Coins (and other denominations)?

Many collectors are familiar with some of the effects of lobbying on U.S. coinage. The Pennsylvania nickel magnate (and namesake of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania) Joseph Wharton’s lobbying for the use of nickel in coinage is well documented and well-remembered, not least because it resulted in the nickel three- and five-cent pieces. In more recent times, the soft drink industry advocated not for a new coinage composition but for new denominations. In an effort to control prices, the soft drink and bottling industries advocated for coinage in 2½-cent instead of five-cent increments.

The American Institute for Intermediate Coinage was founded in 1948 to explore the possibility of coins denominated in half-cent increments to avoid having prices that required two coins. 7½- and 2½-cent were the main denominations for which the Institute advocated, though their research considered denominations from a half cent to 12½ cents. The soft drink industry’s proposals were not entirely without precedent. Proposals for intermediate coinage to meet different needs date back to the early 20th century.

Legislation authorizing intermediate denominations was introduced in multiple Congressional sessions in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The Senate Committee on Banking and Currency’s Subcommittee on Currency and Coinage held hearings in March 1950 to consider several of these pieces of legislation. Soft drink industry leaders, in addition to representatives from the transit industry and other affected economic sectors, and Nellie Tayloe Ross, Director of the U.S. Mint, testified. Ross came out swinging against the proposals, arguing that “no conditions now exist which would justify the addition of new coins to our system,” elaborating that “No country-wide demand or desire for it is evident.” The Senate hearings, out of which no enacted legislation ultimately materialized, were not the end of it; soft drink leaders took the matter to the highest authority in the land. Robert Woodruff, president of Coca-Cola, even pitched a 7½-cent coin to President Dwight Eisenhower shortly after Ike’s inauguration in 1953. Nothing came of these efforts.

In 2013, Paul Gilkes published a feature in Coin World on Coca-Cola related collectibles that detailed the lobbying efforts by the Coca-Cola Company. This blog is based on the exceptional extensive archival research and original reporting in that article and those interested are encouraged to read the full feature.

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