The quest for a dollar coin that people will use continues

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Americans are a tight-fisted people when it comes to their dollars.

So in order to replace the paper currency with dollar coins — a long-advocated move that could save the government an estimated $5.5. billion over 30 years — the General Accountability Office called on Congress, the Federal Reserve and the Treasury to help yank the $1 note from circulation.

In the past 20 years, the GAO, Congress’ investigative arm, has issued four recommendations for a switch to metal dollars in order to save all the money spent to replace worn-out dollar bills. Dollar bills last longer than they used to and now have a life span of up to 40 months. But the coins have an average life span of 30 years.

For the record, I just checked my wallet, and I have three Series 2003 dollar bills, and three Series 2006 dollar bills. Forgive me if I look skeptically on that “life span of up to 40 months” claim.

“The United States is one of the most conservative countries when it comes to the use of coinage,” said Ute Wartenberg, executive director of the American Numismatic Society and a member of the government’s Coinage Advisory Committee, a group of citizens that weighs in on currency policy and designs.

Several surveys commissioned by the GAO suggest that the public is wary of giving up its George Washingtons, simply because it’s what they know and because they are reluctant to carry around more coins.

In the most recent survey, a Gallup poll conducted in 2006, 79 percent of respondents opposed eliminating the $1 note and replacing it with $1 coins. Even when respondents were told the replacement would eventually save taxpayers a lot of money each year, the opposition was still at 64 percent.

“You have to withdraw the actual dollar bills, because we already have plenty of dollar coins and no one even knows what they are,” Wartenberg told AOL News. “They don’t use them and people refuse to accept them.”

We’ve been through this before. I don’t know about you, but I carry dollar bills in my wallet. I carry coins in my pocket. I’d rather have a walletful of bills than a pocketful of coins – the latter is annoying and can make you feel heavy if you have too many of them. Nobody gives dollar coins in change, and vending machines have long accepted bills. The savings from ditching the greenback are quite modest. Why is anyone still pursuing this? The Express News sums it up nicely.

I do have one alternate suggestion, to balance Americans’ love of the paper dollar with the desire to save a bit on printing costs: Why not print more $2 bills? You only need half as many of them, after all. I also happen to have a pair of deuces in my wallet, both of them Series 1995. It’s a win-win! More here.

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3 Responses to The quest for a dollar coin that people will use continues

  1. Ross says:

    That 40 months is an average, so you shouldn’t be surprised to find older bills in your wallet. Keep in mind that there isn’t a new series every year, so the series 2003 bills may have been printed in 2005.

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  3. Matt says:

    Sorry I missed this back in April – bills and coins are dated differently. Coins are dated with the year they are struck. Bills are dated with the last time the design was changed. If the change is a minor change (the signature of a new Treasurer of the US) then a letter is added to the Series:

    With the relative lack of change in US currency design in recent years, the selection of a new Secretary of the Treasury is the main reason for a change in Series date.

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