Last Updated:April 16 @ 07:51 am

Congress looks at doing away with the $1 bill

By Kevin Freking

WASHINGTON (AP) -- American consumers have shown about as much appetite for the $1 coin as kids do their spinach. They may not know what's best for them either. Congressional auditors say doing away with dollar bills entirely and replacing them with dollar coins could save taxpayers some $4.4 billion over the next 30 years.

Vending machine operators have long championed the use of $1 coins because they don't jam the machines, cutting down on repair costs and lost sales. But most people don't seem to like carrying them. In the past five years, the U.S. Mint has produced 2.4 billion Presidential $1 coins. Most are stored by the Federal Reserve, and production was suspended about a year ago.

The latest projection from the Government Accountability Office on the potential savings from switching to dollar coins entirely comes as lawmakers begin exploring new ways for the government to save money by changing the money itself.

The Mint is preparing a report for Congress showing how changes in the metal content of coins could save money.

The last time the government made major metallurgical changes in U.S. coins was nearly 50 years ago when Congress directed the Mint to remove silver from dimes and quarters and to reduce its content in half dollar coins. Now, Congress is looking at new changes in response to rising prices for copper and nickel.

At a House subcommittee hearing Thursday, the focus was on two approaches:

-Moving to less expensive combinations of metals like steel, aluminum and zinc.

-Gradually taking dollar bills out the economy and replacing them with coins.

The GAO's Lorelei St. James told the House Financial Services panel it would take several years for the benefits of switching from paper bills to dollar coins to catch up with the cost of making the change. Equipment would have to be bought or overhauled and more coins would have to be produced upfront to replace bills as they are taken out of circulation.

But over the years, the savings would begin to accrue, she said, largely because a $1 coin could stay in circulation for 30 years while paper bills have to be replaced every four or five years on average.

"We continue to believe that replacing the note with a coin is likely to provide a financial benefit to the government," said St. James, who added that such a change would work only if the note was completely eliminated and the public educated about the benefits of the switch.

Even the $1 coin's most ardent supporters recognize that they haven't been popular. Philip Diehl, former director of the Mint, said there was a huge demand for the Sacagawea dollar coin when production began in 2001, but as time wore on, people stayed with what they knew best.

"We've never bitten the bullet to remove the $1 bill as every other Western economy has done," Diehl said. "If you did, it would have the same success the Canadians have had."

Beverly Lepine, chief operating officer of the Royal Canadian Mint, said her country loves its "Loonie," the nickname for the $1 coin that includes an image of a loon on the back. The switch went over so well that the country also went to a $2 coin called the "Toonie."

Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Mich., affirmed that Canadians have embraced their dollar coins. "I don't know anyone who would go back to the $1 and $2 bills," he said.

That sentiment was not shared by some of his fellow subcommittee members when it comes to the U.S. version.

Rep. Lacy Clay, D-Mo., said men don't like carrying a bunch of coins around in their pocket or in their suits. And Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., said the $1 coins have proved too hard to distinguish from quarters.

"If the people don't want it and they don't want to use it," she said, "why in the world are we even talking about changing it?"

"It's really a matter of just getting used to it," said Diehl, the former Mint director.

Several lawmakers were more intrigued with the idea of using different metal combinations in producing coins.

Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, said a penny costs more than 2 cents to make and a nickel costs more than 11 cents to make. Moving to multiplated steel for coins would save the government nearly $200 million a year, he said.

The Mint's report, which is due in mid-December, will detail the results of nearly 18 months of work exploring a variety of new metal compositions and evaluating test coins for attributes as hardness, resistance to wear, availability of raw materials and costs.

Richard Peterson, the Mint's acting director, declined to give lawmakers a summary of what will be in the report, but he said "several promising alternatives" were found.

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17 Comments

  1. CharlieComment by vietnamvet
    November 30, 2012 @ 3:21 pm

    If we DO switch to a one dollar coin, I bet it will bear Obama’s image.
    Then, he will have ‘displaced’ George Washington from his place of honor.

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  2. gimmesometruthComment by gimmesometruth
    November 30, 2012 @ 3:47 pm

    I say do away with Congress, and keep the dollar!

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    • mcrankComment by mcrank
      November 30, 2012 @ 5:06 pm

      I wonder how much the government would save if we replaced every brainless Congressman with one who has genuine intellect?

      As for Canadian dollar coins bearing the image of a loon—were we to go to $1 coins, if we put images of of our Congressmen on them, we would have the same thing.

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    • peacemakertxComment by peacemakertx
      December 3, 2012 @ 2:57 pm

      US government is concerned with saving money? REALLY?? Who is buying that plate of hogwash? …and $4 billion over how many years??

      Here is a suggestion: cease and desist with all foreign aid to Islamo-fascist countries IMMEDIATELY, beginning with Egypt…there is a $14 billion savings a YEAR, JUST WITH EGYPT! Count up the yearly foreign aid bill to countries that have proven to be enemies of the US: economically, politically, militarily, and any other -ly you care to add. We might actually begin to make a dent in the deficit… I am SO sick and tired of the “let’s raise taxes to decrease the deficit” talking points. If I were to conduct my personal finances the way the US government conducts its finances, I would go to prison for a good long time!

      We need to stop spending. PERIOD!

      This most recent offer from Geithner (idiot) illustrates just how out of touch with basic rules of economics the Democrats are, and continue to be. Regrettably, the Republicans haven’t proven to be much more financially astute.

      It is simple: spending more than you make is financial suicide.

      Who thinks it is a good idea that, when you have hit your credit card limit, you should just raise your credit card limit…because you still have stuff to buy, you still have bills to pay, but your income has remained the same…or decreased??? Who has an employer that will give you a raise every time your budget exceeds your income? Americans employ 535 people (remember: they ARE OUR employees) who continue (illegally) to spend beyond their means…and continue to give themselves (again, illegally) raises and bloated budgetary finances by holding their employers (you and me) hostage via the ability to raise taxes…

      When are we going to wake up? No more “free” ANYTHING! If you can’t afford it, do without! There is NO SUCH THING as “free” healthcare, “free” phone, “free” student loans, “free” mortgages, “free” fill-in-the-blank ….SOMEONE, SOMEWHERE, paid for all that…and that someone was ME. I am fed up with the mentality in this country, so aptly evidenced in this last farce of an election, that “somebody owes me sumpin’”.

      That’s it. I am done. The soap box is officially vacant…Next?

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  3. rstoeckComment by rstoeck
    November 30, 2012 @ 3:48 pm

    None of this will happen because it makes too much sense.

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    • BobinmsComment by Bobinms
      November 30, 2012 @ 6:05 pm

      The problem with the American dollar coin is they are about the same size as a quarter which makes life confusing. If they would make them “silver dollar” size or the size of the Loonie, Euro, or British pound, I think they would more likely be accepted.

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  4. fox100dComment by fox100d
    November 30, 2012 @ 3:50 pm

    NEVER, till they put “IN GOD WE TRUST” and “E PLURIBUS UNUM” back on the face and back of the coin, NOT along the rim/edge where no one sees it, or is aware!
    This country was founded on the grace of God, and every President, till our current Muslim, gave credit to the Father!
    Thank you.
    FOX!

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    • stickmanComment by stickman
      November 30, 2012 @ 4:46 pm

      This country was founded because the colonists got tired of being taxed and used as a bottomless money pit for King George and his Parliament. THAT was the reason for the Revolutionary War that freed us from that tyranny – and will in all likelyhood be the cause of the next revolution. It was the cause of the destruction of the combined Kingdom of Israel and Judah left by Solomon to his son Rehoboam. But yes, In God we trust should be on our paper and coinage – MONEY IS our God.

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  5. dollytComment by dollyt
    November 30, 2012 @ 5:16 pm

    Have you all forgotten how many times they tried this before.
    The coins weigh down your pocets and look too much like quarters
    and have only been used as coin collectors items.

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    • vevaComment by veva
      December 2, 2012 @ 10:26 pm

      They not only weigh down your pocket, they wear holes in your pockets. You won’t be happy after you have lost several coins, and more unhappy when your suit pant pockets are full of holes. How you going to fix them? The same applies to purses being too heavy that cause shoulder pain. Just the coin purse part of a wallet holds enough to make a purse heavy. I’ve unloaded mine many times to lessen the weight. We aren’t each Wonder Woman! Secondly, many, many businesses that have “self check-out” service, have machines that take PAPER BILLS. You wanna feed a bunch of coins into it for up to $5 or $10 dollars? Paper may not “grow on trees” because it is made from trees, and other plant substances. Metal is mined from the earth, but there is a limited amount of that, also. The public in the past didn’t like the coins. The Susan B Anthony one didn’t last. Too much like another coin. To the feds: Give it up.

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  6. clarkentComment by clarkent
    November 30, 2012 @ 5:26 pm

    I agree with dollyyt. Besides that we always hear the story over a period of time we will save XXXXXamount of money, Ha, Ha.The Gov’t doen’t know how to save money.

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  7. cfhardersonComment by cfharderson
    November 30, 2012 @ 11:23 pm

    I was in England, France, Belgium and Germany during the Summer of 2011. When England gave up the antiquated Imperial English System of Measurement for the superior International System, they changed there money to a decimal system like ours. England has a 1 pound (1£) coin and a 2 pound (2£) coin. Their smallest paper money is the 5 pound (5£) note. Similarly, France, Belgium and Germany had 1 Euro coins and 2 Euro coins. Their smallest paper money is the 5 Euro bill.
    At first, this was a little confusing but after a couple of days, it was convenient not to always dig out my wallet for small purchases.

    Also a coin is much more durable than paper money. This means it would not have to be replaced as often as paper currency. You should already know, the paper that money is printed on does NOT GROW ON TREES !

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  8. rzraickComment by rzraick
    December 1, 2012 @ 1:20 am

    As the currency is devalued, the buying power of the dollar decreaces. Everything you have worked for is being taken from you. the dollar as lost 96% of its purchasing power in this infaltionary banker controlled/ government backed farce of an illegal impossible monetary system.

    And now they just want to do more of the same. Lots more. When the fruits of your labor are completely looted by the government, perhaps you will squeak up. When your lifes work has bee taken from you, when you children are permanent debt slaves, when you can leave them nothing but the crippling debt of the government to enslave them, maybe you will see the madness of this system.

    It will be too late.

    You must start saying NO to all this. Say it every way you can.

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  9. truckmanComment by truckman
    December 1, 2012 @ 2:22 am

    Will Congress be surprised that we DON’T want a dollar coin? Probably. I resist because GAO,and the Government in general,say it’s a good idea,and I DON’T TRUST THEM! Their Credibility with me is absolutely NIL. On its face it might look like a good idea,but we must remember our Government’s horrifying ability to screw up even the most basic plan. In agreement with many others here,we should replace Congress with decent,capable people,hand the issue of America’s money control back to Congress as it SHOULD be,and keep the Dollar bills. B’sides,the dollar coins are so damned hard to fold….

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  10. gnafuComment by gnafu
    December 1, 2012 @ 10:02 am

    I want my one dollar coins in gold.

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    • cfhardersonComment by cfharderson
      December 1, 2012 @ 11:53 am

      HAHAHAHA
      The price of gold was $1714.60 per troy ounce ( troy ounces for precious metals like gold, silver & platinum) at the close of markets Friday. One troy ounce is the weight of 31.103 grams. So your one dollar gold coin would contain at most 18.14 milligrams of gold. A standard aspirin tablet contains 250 milligrams of aspirin and low dose tablet is 81 mg. If you would rather use the Imperial System of Measurement that would 0.280 grains !

      Don’t sneeze or cough or you will blow it away !

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  11. Pingback: Congress looks at doing away with the $1 bill « Give Me Liberty

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