As talk of a possible $1 trillion coin continue to build the misunderstanding of the concept appears to be growing with it. As documented by Talking Points Memo, today Fox News ran a graphic that claimed the $1 trillion platinum coin would weigh “17,773.995 tons” and equal the weight of 89 blue whales or a ballistic submarine missile. A short video segment featuring the graphic can be seen below. In fact, if the Treasury Secretary did mint a $1 trillion platinum coin he could make it the size of a dime if he so desired.
The Fox News graphics designers, and perhaps their producers, clearly believed that the $1 trillion platinum coin would have to be worth $1 trillion in actual platinum.
What Fox News failed to understand is that coins do not necessarily get their worth from the actual metal in the coin. Most coins metal melt values are only a fraction of their actual worth. For example, if one melted down a quarter and tried to sell it they would find that the metal in the quarter is only worth about five cents. The quarter is worth 25 cents because the Treasury Department says it is worth 25 cents, just a $100 bill is worth $100 because of the credit worthiness of the United States, not because of the paper value of the bill.
Of course, some consider the entire discussion of the $1 trillion coin silly. Still, the option has at least some support in the law and from economics experts like Paul Krugman. In the alternative, the United States may be forced to default on its debt obligations which would send the entire world economy into a tailspin. At that point, many Americans may want to see a $1 trillion coin minted even if it is the size of ballistic submarine.