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As we fondle the newly minted Oklahoma quarter, the question arises: Just what can you buy with one of these things?

By Don Mecoy Modified: January 29, 2008 at 6:23 am •  Published: January 29, 2008

flation has eroded the buying power of our pocket change.

The quarter we slap down today is worth just 3 cents in 1950's buying power. Looking at it from the opposite perspective, 25 cents in 1950 had the buying power of $2.15 today.

Economics professor Sue Lynn Sasser of the University of Central Oklahoma said inflation erodes our ability to buy things. But in small doses, inflation is preferable to its opposite.

"What you really don't want to get is deflation,” Sasser said. "Imagine if everything you purchased, your house, your stocks and investments, was worth less than what you paid for it.”

Deflation is what threw the Japanese economy into chaos during the 1990s, Sasser said.

A healthy economy typically generates a small, controlled inflation rate, she said. And that's why a quarter feels like 3 cents to some of us.

Say, buddy, can you spare a dollar?