As seems to happen every few years, there's another report out from a federal agency urging the U.S. to withdraw $1 bills from circulation and replace them with coins. The arguments are always the same: Coins last longer! We'd save a bunch of money! Everyone else is doing it!
Switching to dollar coins is a dumb idea, and I'm glad to see that a member of Congress has finally, succinctly explained why. The AP reports:"Rep. Lacy Clay, D-Mo., said men don't like carrying a bunch of coins around in their pocket or in their suits."
This. This. A thousand times this.
The Government Accountability Office estimates that switching to dollar coins would save the U.S. government $4.4 billion over 30 years. That's about $150 million a year, or 50 cents per year per American.
What you get in exchange for that 50 cents a year is that you never really need to think about change. You stick it in your pockets when a cashier hands it to you, you collect it in a jar on your desk, and every few months, you take that jar to a Coinstar machine. If you take your Coinstar voucher in the form of a gift card, you don't even have to pay a counting fee.
But when you go to Canada or Europe, suddenly change becomes real money. The largest coin is worth $2.60 in the euro-zone, $3.20 in the U.K. and a whopping $5.40 in Switzerland. At the end of the day, not only are your pockets full of large, bulky coins, but those coins are also probably worth enough to buy a sandwich and a beer.
That's annoying. I don't want to have to get money from both my wallet and my pockets. I don't want to expend any mental energy thinking about change. I just want to dump it in a jar.
Getting the freedom to do that for just 50 cents a year is the steal of the century. It's one of a handful of things (along with movies, bathroom fixtures and hotel mattresses) that America does much better than Europe.
If Congress wants to fiddle with our change-production practices, it should abolish the penny, which actually costs the government more than one cent to make. The dollar bill is one of the things that makes America great.
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