Dollar Coin Gathers Dust

A couple months ago, ABC News, following up on an NPR story, did an “expose” involving US unused, and purportedly unwanted, dollar coins.

“Passed by Congress in 2005, the Presidential $1 Coin Act ordered the mint to make millions of coins to honor every dead president, but not even Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., one of the co-sponsors of the original bill, uses the legal tender.” It goes on to explain that these coins are being stored, at no small expense, in warehouses, which does appear to be a waste of money.

Implicit in the ABC News story was that the obvious solution is to get Congress to get the Mint to stop making the coins.

Well, that’s one way to look at it, but I would suggest something else, which is in step with this coin expert:
“As for the U.S. circulating dollar coins, virtually everyone agrees that there is only one way to get Americans to use them, and that is to do away with the paper dollar. Doing so would also save a lot of money since dollar coins, like other circulating coinage, lasts for decades, while paper bills have a much shorter life span. Many people seem reluctant to give up their paper dollars because they do not want to carry around dollar coins, but unless you have a lot of them in your pocket they are really not that heavy. They weigh about the same amount as a quarter, and most of us have no problem carrying quarters in our pockets or purses. I am sure we could make the adjustment if we had to.”

Using the Presidential dollar coin would have some other benefits. Americans might actually learn who their Presidents were. Moreover, I think the notion that “nobody wants them” is self-fulfilling. Except for one branch of one bank, I cannot regularly FIND the new releases of the Presidential $1 coin around Albany. If more people actually saw them, they would use them, and might even collect them. They’ve worked in every vending machine I’ve tried.

As I understand it, when Canada got rid of its dollar bill in favor of a coin – the Loonie – back in the 1980s, there was some resistance. But, as I noticed during our family visit to Toronto and Peterborough, Ontario last month, it’s no longer a big deal.

WAIT…

I have late word that the United States cannot get rid of its dollar bill, because it would be a threat to its freedom. Frankly, I’m not sure what that means. Maybe we’re all Stonecutters who are resistant to “foreign” things such as the metric system, even as we drink our two-liter bottles of Pepsi.

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5 thoughts on “Dollar Coin Gathers Dust

  1. I’ve never understood what the big deal is, not even when I lived in the US. If the dollar coin is more cost-effective—and it clearly is—dump the paper money. To me, it always seemed like a no-brainer. To be honest, that description—”no-brainer”—seemed to best describe those opposed to a total switch to dollar coins.

    Fast forward, and I now live in New Zealand, a country with $1 and $2 coins. The first paper note is $5, though there’s now talk of changing that to a coin, too. The point is, neither democracy nor society have collapsed as a result.

    I think New Zealand is at or near the point where most transactions are electronic—using a card at the cash register. I never carry cash of any kind, for example. Even parking meters and vending machines allow folks to pay by text message on their cellphone, so who needs cash?

    Increasingly, electronic transactions are replacing cash in the US, too. With paper money doomed, and until the day it’s gone completely, why should the US keep a paper dollar when coins are cheaper?

    BTW, I remember that when the Susan B. Anthony dollar was released it was said that the average paper dollar lasted 18 months. I don’t have a source for that, but the number stuck in my mind.

  2. The smallest note we have is £5 (a little under $8) and there are complaints that even these are in short supply.

    Interesting that there should be resistance to the metric system when you have a decimal currency! Personally, I’d support the duodecimal system.

  3. During my six months in Canada, I came to really like the dollar coins. They were easier to deal with than having a wad of singles in your wallet. I really wish the US would make the move to get rid of the paper $1.

  4. Interesting post, Roger. We have coins for 2 euro, 1 euro, 50 cents, 20 cents, 10 cents, 5 cents. The euro is in danger now. I hope that all those financial problems will soon be solved.

  5. I imagine the coins will go the same way as the $2 paper bill, the Susan B Anthony silver dollar coin and the Sacajawea dollar coin. And we’ll continue to house them in warehouses for obscene amounts of money.

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