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'Hagro' would end the hassle

January 07, 1999

I have this great idea for a new Western Maryland currency. You take traditional cash, lottery tickets and state welfare cards and merge them into one universal species.

I call it "The Hagro."

And think of the time it would save, particularly in supermarket lines where shoppers maneuver their plastic Independence Cards through the magnetic slot with the same cautious, reverent awe with which they might help a medieval priest exorcise demons from a Yorkshire swine.

With the Hagro you don't have any PIN to worry about, straining your recall into the universe of four digits. You don't have to stand there and think for 20 minutes when the lighted display asks "Is $44.23 OK?"

And the Hagrodollar comes with scratchable fields. You can either spend it or scratch off the six spaces for a chance at winning more. Yes, every Hagro is a greenback and lottery ticket in one.

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That means no more waiting for some lottohead in front of you at the convenience store while he buys tickets and scratches them off on the counter. If he has the money, he has the ticket; there's no reason to buy anything.

And don't you just hate it when you get your Powerball ticket mixed up with your Maryland Pick 5? It's no longer a problem with the Hagro because it will be a regional currency, negotiable throughout the Tri-State area. Can you not see the beauty and efficiency in that? (I'm currently working on a version of the Hagro that opens into five individual tip-jar slips - no more messy holders, it pays off in Hagros - but the R&D guys say the concept needs more work.)

Oh, I know, there may be problems and some holdouts due to pride and nationalism. I can imagine it might be hard to persuade some of the more snobbish communities such as, say, Shepherdstown or Smithsburg, to join the Hagro coalition. I know they will want to hold on to their own U.S. currency, unless they can have one of their own for head of the Central Hagro Bank.

The other sticking point is the conversion rate - how much the Hagro will trade for against the Japanese yen or the British pound or the U.S. dollar. I've thought long and hard about this and I've decided the perfect rate for the Hagro is the exact price, including tax, of a pack of Marlboros and a Slim Jim - perhaps the single-most common local purchase.

Do you realize what that means? That's right, you can walk into any store, get a pack of smokes and your favorite nutritious morning snack in exchange for one single Hagro bill.

Think how convenient that will be. No change, no waits at the register, no scrambling in your purse for two pennies. One Hagro buys it all. And by some wonderful coincidence, this means that 10 Hagros (I expect they'll be called Hags - "give me eight Hags for a 20," you'll say) will be the exact cost of a quart of Old Crow.

As for investment potential, I can't yet predict how it will go. Will big Wall Street investors be keen to add a package of Hagros to their portfolios? I suspect they will, provided the Hagro Index keeps up with Treasury Bonds and hard metals in early-year trading.

At the very least, a good strong Hagro mutual fund will be a good hedge against progress. Because what if the Y2K problem really does evolve into a crisis? What if markets fall, grocery stores empty, transportation grinds to a halt and hedge funds collapse?

Your money, your stocks, your bonds, your futures may all be worthless. But me? I'll be sitting happily in my root cellar stuffing myself full of good wholesome Slim Jims and scratching off a stack of Hagros. It doesn't get any better than that.




Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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