Jazz Dollars

Today is Black History Month. Wait, that can’t be right. A day can’t be a month, and Black History Month is February, and we’re in the middle of April. But aside from that it’s true. Mostly.

I know, I know: Why ain’t they a white history month?

Figure it out for yourself, Simon, once someone tells you what to do.

On Wednesday next week it will be 28 years since Dexter Gordon died.

To thousands of musicians, long tall Dex is still alive. But few Americans today — way less than 1 in 100, I assure you — could tell you who Dexter Gordon was — what he did and why he is important. Or could sing even one of his choruses.

That’s a sad commentary on our nation.

Dexter was the Shakespeare of our music. He told stories in tones.

Five hundred moons ago, when I was a young musician in Europe, I was so happy to see the faces of Mozart and Beethoven and long-dead Dutch and Italian artists honored on their countries’ currencies.

But we slather on our currency the faces of politicians.

Andrew Jackson on the $20?

Really?

He of the Cherokee Removal Act?

Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson and Ben Franklin trade at face value today, if that.

Here’s a way the United States of America can dig itself out of our new $1 trillion in debt: Sell dollar bills like baseball cards.

Collect ‘em! Trade ‘em with your friends!

A Mickey Mantle baseball card just sold for $1.1 million, in the real world.

More Mantle cards are coming on the market, and are expected to bring in twice as much.

So why not sell special edition $100 bills from the U.S. Mint for $1,000 or $2,000 a pop?

It would not depreciate the currency. Anything but. And if we substituted jazz musicians’ faces for politicians’ mugs, our dollars would sell like hotcakes.

I would pay $300 here and now for one special edition $20 bill from the U.S. Mint with Charlie Parker on it instead of Andrew Jackson.

I don’t want to tip my hand by telling you how much I’d pay for a Thelonious Monk $100 bill, but it would be a lot of money.

OK, I would gladly lay down $1,000 here and now (but not my Charlie Parker $20s) for a Thelonious Monk $100 bill issued from the U.S. Mint — any U.S. Mint. (Except the one I am setting up in Sheboygan, as a “sovereign citizen” (wink, wink).

My $100 bills will sell at a discount.

What I am proposing is that we replace the U.S. dollar with Jazz Dollars.

That’s the U.S. system today, right?

Dissipate, grab and improvise?

So why not Jazz Dollars?

A Herbie Hancock card, I imagine, would trade at slightly above face value forever.

People would hoard Coltranes and Lester Youngs. A Don Byas card would be so rare and valuable that you couldn’t trade it or sell it. You’d just have it.

Duke Ellington should be on the $1, and — dare I say it? — Count Basie on the $2.

I know, I know: Why should a Basie be worth two Ellingtons?

He ain’t. It’s just the way it worked out. It’s not real. It’s politics.

We put politicians on our money because once we had the best political system the world had ever devised. Our American Empire was a practical one, like the Romans’.

No more. Empires have life spans, as do all living things.

So get those white men off our money. Their time is up.

Give me Bird and Pres and Trane and Miles.

Their times are over too. But I tell you what: Any Miles Davis $10 on U.S. currency would surely be worth eight times its face value forever: pi times Euler’s number: 3.14159265 x 2.718281828 = 8.53973421 = $85.39.

Am I right or am I right?

So if a Miles Davis $10 bill is worth $85.39 today, right now … would you like change with that?

Why, if the U.S. Treasury prints Jazz Dollars in limited editions, with total circulation announced ahead of time, U.S. currency could become as popular as Bitcoin.

And where would that put us? Right where we are now, I guess.

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