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The Almighty Buck Government United States News

Is It Time For the US To Ditch the Dollar Bill? 943

coondoggie writes "It seems well past time that the U.S. ditch its $1 bill — considering such a move could save the country somewhere in the neighborhood of $4 billion. But there is much resistance, or perhaps a lack of real consideration of the issue from most people. Watchdogs at the Government Accountability Office this week testified before a Congressional hearing on the topic, and said dollar coins could save $4.4 billion over 30 years (PDF), or an average of about $146 million per year."
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Is It Time For the US To Ditch the Dollar Bill?

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  • by thesameguy ( 1047504 ) on Friday November 30, 2012 @05:51PM (#42148037)

    Dollar coins at the strip club sounds both dangerous and hilarious.

    • by tverbeek ( 457094 ) on Friday November 30, 2012 @05:55PM (#42148109) Homepage

      That will just bump the tips up to higher denominations.

      • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

        not if the strippers are of the same caliber as they are now.

    • by Kneo24 ( 688412 ) on Friday November 30, 2012 @06:15PM (#42148453)
      Strippers will coin the phrase, "making it hail".
    • by MachDelta ( 704883 ) on Friday November 30, 2012 @07:07PM (#42149385)

      How to get a free dental extraction in Canada:

      1) Grab a couple "Loonies" ($1 coins) and some big bills.
      2) Head to the strip club
      3) Get shitfaced. Trust me, you'll need the anesthesia.
      4) Use your lighter to heat the $1 coin until you can't handle it
      5) Throw hot coin at the stripper
      6) Repeat
      7) Wait patiently for the "surgeon" to take you to his alley, er, office.
      8) ???
      9) No teeth!

    • As a Canadian, I can tell you that Canadian strippers hate Americans and their dollar bills. Minimum Canadian tip is $5 - tossing coins on stage will get you thrown out :)

  • Not yet... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by broggyr ( 924379 ) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .ryggorb.> on Friday November 30, 2012 @05:52PM (#42148049)
    Not gonna happen; we still have pennies, for chrissakes!
    • Re:Not yet... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by redback ( 15527 ) on Friday November 30, 2012 @05:58PM (#42148165)

      This will not happen until Americans can let go of their irrational attachment to dollar bills and pennies.

      In Australia we ditched $1 and $2 notes for coins in 1984 and 1988. 1c and 2c coins were dropped in 1992.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 30, 2012 @06:04PM (#42148259)

        In Australia we ditched $1 and $2 notes[...]

        In the USA, we still like to pretend our currency has value.

      • by NReitzel ( 77941 )

        It's not a question of "irrational" - though that is the case. It's more a case of having a bunch of congresspeople who are technically invertebrates. If they had any spine at all, they would do what other close neighbors have done. Don't make a big PR push about "converting" - just stay shut up, and then stop printing the one dollar bills. After a few years, the problem will be an unproblem. And because it isn't a "changeover" shoved at the public, there won't be any organized resistance.

        Given the way

      • by Sponge Bath ( 413667 ) on Friday November 30, 2012 @06:35PM (#42148881)
        I wonder if it would help to engrave a pair of fabulous tits on the new dollar coin.
        Hmmm... George Washington, tits. George Washington, tits. It could work.
      • by jeff4747 ( 256583 ) on Friday November 30, 2012 @06:46PM (#42149061)

        You might wanna find out what actually happened in the US before laying on too much sanctimony.

        We've tried to replace the dollar with coins three times so far, and it's failed.

        The problem is the size and shape of the old dollar coins. They're very close to quarters in size and weight. In our first attempt, the dollar coins were also silver like the quarters. So it was hard to quickly identify which coins are dollars and which are quarters.

        But while that mistake was going on, all sorts of equipment was built to accept dollar coins that were that size and shape. So when it came time for serious attempt #2 (Sacagawea dollar) the coin still had to be the same size and shape or every vending machine would have to be replaced. So they tried changing the color to gold in order to satisfy humans and machines.

        Well, it was the only gold coin most people in the US have seen, so it was odd. And it still felt like a quarter in your pocket. So still didn't win much acceptance. Plus a lot of people responded to the name of the coin with "Sack a Jew what?"

        We're trying again with the Presidential Dollar Coins. They're still close to quarters to satisfy the vending machines, and gold to try and satisfy the humans. And they've got "normal" names.

        Realistically, the changeover will happen in one of three ways:

        • Very slowly
        • Screwing over the vending machines so we get a coin that feels different
        • Congress banning the paper dollar, which will piss off a lot of people who need something to be angry about.
        • Re:Not yet... (Score:4, Informative)

          by mister_playboy ( 1474163 ) on Friday November 30, 2012 @07:22PM (#42149591)

          The problem is the size and shape of the old dollar coins. They're very close to quarters in size and weight.

          No, the problem is the size and shape of the newer dollar coins. For most of US history, dollar coins (orginally silver) up until the Eisenhower (71-78) were logically larger than half dollars.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eisenhower_dollar [wikipedia.org]

          It was the '79 Susan B. Anthony that started the quarter/dollar confusion.

        • Re:Not yet... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by nukenerd ( 172703 ) on Friday November 30, 2012 @07:25PM (#42149623)

          You might wanna find out what actually happened in the US before laying on too much sanctimony.

          We've tried to replace the dollar with coins three times so far, and it's failed.

          Being in the UK where the pound note was replaced by a coin about 15 years ago, amid much moaning from some, I do not understand what is meant by "failed". So what happened? Did people throw them away when given them (in change or payement)? Or did they refuse the transaction entirely (and then do without the business)? Historically, there was great difficulty getting people to accept notes in the first place rather than coin; so what irony!

          In the UK, the pound coins just started appearing to the public in change from shops, and notes just disappeared over a timescale of a few weeks because, when they passed through a bank, the bank withdrew them (as they would withdraw worn-out notes). In fact once the process started people became reluctant to accept a pound note because they did not want to get stuck with it (although banks would accept them for a long time after).

          Personally, I always find money very acceptable.. Yes, anyone could "refuse to accept" coins like they can alway "refuse to accept" cars, the Internet, electricity, the sun, rain, whatever .....

        • Re:Not yet... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by mark-t ( 151149 ) <markt@nerdflat.cCHICAGOom minus city> on Friday November 30, 2012 @07:38PM (#42149761) Journal

          The reason it failed was because the USA didn't actually make the decision to stop printing $1 bills.

          Canada initially made a similar error when we introduced the loonie here. The $1 bill was not actually removed from circulation (they only reduced the number of $1 bills printed) for a number of months after the coin's introduction, during which the $1 bills that existed were wearing out faster (because people preferred them to coins and would use them so much more frequently), and this necessitated the mint printing more than initially estimated. The solution, Canada determined, was to discontinue the $1 bill entirely and increase production of the $1 coin to compensate.

          It worked.

        • The problem is the size and shape of the old dollar coins. They're very close to quarters in size and weight.

          Yes. And the Susan B. Anthony's perhaps were confusing. But the Sacagawea's aren't confusing at all.

          There's no "problem" except the fact that the Treasury Department keeps printing dollar bills. Stop printing them, and people will stop using them. People use what is familiar... and if you have two things in circulation that do the same thing and one is less familiar, people will continue to use the old one.

          But just stop handing out the old ones. The average life of a dollar bill in circulation is p

        • Re:Not yet... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Guppy06 ( 410832 ) on Friday November 30, 2012 @09:53PM (#42151123)

          We've tried to replace the dollar with coins three times so far, and it's failed.

          We've never been without dollar coins, since 1776. It's the greenback that's new.

          The problem is the size and shape of the old dollar coins. They're very close to quarters in size and weight.

          Until coins marked 1965 and newer, all reeded US coins (dimes, quarters, halves, dollars) were 0.9 fine silver; the reeding was to discourage filing of the precious metal. The values of the coins were based on their weight in silver, a ratio (though not their original weights) that persists today: a half-dollar weighs as much as two quarters, which weighs as much as five dimes, and any combination of all three that equals $20 weighs 1 lb avoirdupois.

          After all circulating coins were reduced to base metals, the Eisenhower dollar coin was introduced in 1971. However, it was the same size as the old (true) silver dollars, weighing as much as four quarters, proving to be an unwieldy size. This large size made sense when they were minted of precious metal, but not so much with base metal. It failed to catch on.

          (Meanwhile, the half-dollar fell out of common circulation, because everyone obsessed over JFK.)

          The Anthony dollar of 1979 was an effort to fix this. In order to distinguish it from other denominations, it was originally going to be a different shape: a curve of continuous width, with 11 sides (in honor of Apollo 11, whose mission patch was on the reverse). This original feature can be seen in the artwork of the coin, with both the obverse and reverse having a hendecagon inscribed around the edge. However, coin-operated machinery operators were concerned about the reliability of their equipment accepting such an unusual shape at the time, resulting in a last-minute change to a circular coin.

          It should be noted that Canada essentially copied the Anthony dollar's original design in their current "loonie," only changing the color. The number 11 doesn't hold the historical significance to Canada as it does to the US, but the loonie has 11 sides just the same.

          So when it came time for serious attempt #2 (Sacagawea dollar) the coin still had to be the same size and shape or every vending machine would have to be replaced.

          As noted above, the loonie is the same thickness and diameter as the Anthony dollar. In addition to this, Canadian pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters are also the same size and shape (and color) as US coins of the same denomination. (Half-dollars are different, but are rarely seen in either country regardless.)

          Because of this, coin-sorting equipment can be made to easily switch between US and Canadian coins, which only really differ in weight and metallurgy (i. e. magnetic signature). Keeping the newer golden dollars the same size and shape as the Anthony dollars wasn't just a matter of backwards-compatibility but cross-compatibility as well. The yellow color of the golden US dollars also continues the trend of using the same colors for the same denominations.

          The real issue for the golden dollar was maintaining the same magnetic signature as the Anthony dollar, in spite of using a different color alloy.

          And it still felt like a quarter in your pocket.

          Until you feel the smooth edge. It doesn't have the loonie's corners, but it's still easily distinguished from quarters by touch, just as you can distinguish between quarters and nickels, and between dimes and pennies.

          We're trying again with the Presidential Dollar Coins.

          Past tense. Production was halted prematurely this year, with Grover Cleveland's first term.

          Besides, they were always intended as a limited issue, much like the "50 State Quarters" program. Sacagawea dollars were minted alongside them, along with some special, limited-issue reverses reflecting "Native American heritage." The only permanent change is moving "In God We Trust" from the edge-printing to the obverse, after a certain well-publicized snafu with the Presidential dollars.

      • if you hadn't noticed, there's a particularly loud virulent strain of "oppose all common sense progress as evil" in the USA

        i know such stubborn blockheadedness isn't unique to the USA. but they seem more powerful here. how do other countries quash this loud ignorant sort?

      • I was recently in Australia for a week, and in that time, I found $4 on the street - two $1 coins and a $2 coin. Now losing a couple quarters is no big deal - worth maybe a can of soda. But lose a couple of the quite small $2 coins, and there goes a latte - and you know how us Americans are with our Starbucks! With such small but high-value coins, the wealth that's caught in the couch cushions down under could probably solve the financial crisis of a small European country!

        Seriously though, I prefer plastic

    • Re:Not yet... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by boristdog ( 133725 ) on Friday November 30, 2012 @06:04PM (#42148247)

      Yeah, my wife bitches when I say we should get rid of pennies and just have purchase totals rounded up or down to the nearest five cents.
      Her: "But the retailers will price everything so it gets rounded up!"
      Me: "No, multiple item purchases will make it just as likely to round down, and that's only for cash transactions."
      Her: "But I still may pay more when I go to the store!"
      Me: "Uh yeah, If you make 10 CASH transactions per week you might pay about 30 cents more per week, or about $15/year."
      Her: "It's a way to rip me off!"

      She makes over $100K/year. People like her are why we will always be stuck with pennies.

  • by alienzed ( 732782 ) on Friday November 30, 2012 @05:54PM (#42148085) Homepage
    It seems like everything in the US takes forever to accomplish. Everything changed when the internet came to be. We can do things now in seconds that used to take days. The governing system needs to learn a thing or two from this. However, Canada gave up the dollar bill a long long time ago, and soon we're getting rid of the penny. It seems more and more like we're the real leaders in North America now.
    • Re:pace (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Shadow of Eternity ( 795165 ) on Friday November 30, 2012 @06:21PM (#42148563)

      We have a government where powerful politicians can openly claim that significant scientific theories are "lies from the pit of hell", and that came up with the TSA and Gitmo. They're inefficient and slow on purpose, do you really want these people to be able to take significant actions quickly and efficiently?

  • Inflation beware (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Jack Malmostoso ( 899729 ) on Friday November 30, 2012 @05:55PM (#42148111)

    Here in Europe it is widespread belief that the fact that 1 and 2 euros are in coins are a reason for inflation. You think twice before spending a bill, while psychologically a coin is easier to part with.
    It does happen quite often to have 10-20eur in coins so it's probably not all wrong.

  • Familiarity (Score:5, Insightful)

    by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Friday November 30, 2012 @05:57PM (#42148147)

    Wait, they're saying we can save potentially billions of dollars, by simply changing our expectations and habits in a very slight and non-destructive fashion? Unless we can declare war on it as some kind of abstract ideological concept, nobody's going to go for that. This is America, dude, where we turn off the lights when we leave the bathroom to save the environment while we let petroleum producers dump thousands of tonnes of oil into the water because they half-assed the construction and bypassed most of the safety procedures. We come in peace, ignore the Predator drones.

    The only sensible way to do this is to shove it down the average person's throat with them screaming bloody murder... only to find out a few years later that they actually like it better the new way. It's how things have always been done here. Don't ask me why, I don't know whether it's human nature, or there's something in the water that makes people this resistant to beneficial change, but will happily make useless changes to everything...

  • by InvisibleClergy ( 1430277 ) on Friday November 30, 2012 @05:57PM (#42148149)

    That's all there is to this comment. I throw away pennies. The only coins I save are quarters, and I only do that out of frustration. I don't carry a coin pouch. Seriously.

  • by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Friday November 30, 2012 @05:58PM (#42148171) Journal

    We should just strike a zero from the coins and keep the dollar. In other words, the pennies sitting in your piggy would immediately be worth $0.10. Paper money and the existing dollar coins would keep the same value, just multiply the value of all the other coins.

    1. Really not that expensive compared to the national debt.

    2. It would be a form of stimulus that goes to middle class people with jars full of coins, not fat cats. It would spark the kind of spending they want to stimulate, just in time for Christmas.

    3. The mint would once again be making money minting pennies and nickles instead of losing it. In the long run it would pay for itself. As an added bonus, you don't need to change the minting process.

  • by guises ( 2423402 ) on Friday November 30, 2012 @06:00PM (#42148195)
    Planet Money did a whole podcast on this. Don't see anyone linking to it, so here's the most current thing:

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2012/11/29/166103071/no-killing-the-dollar-bill-would-not-save-the-government-money [npr.org]

    The short is: switching to dollar coins is both less convenient and more expensive than sticking with bills. It's surprising, given the much longer lifetime of coins, but unambiguous.
    • by Mathieu Lutfy ( 69 ) on Friday November 30, 2012 @06:55PM (#42149195) Homepage

      Although the main argument of the linked article on why it's more expensive, is that people tend to hold on to coins (put them in useless jars) rather than use them, so the government had to produce 1.6 dollar coins for each 1$ paper billed replaced.

      In the linked PDF file [1], search for "1.6", you will find this sentence in the same paragraph:

      "However, in both cases, once the transition was complete, coin
      production was very low or even nil in some years. Therefore, we
      determined that a 1.5-to-1 replacement rate would be appropriate for our analysisâ"low enough to avoid an excess of $1 coins without creating an undue risk of producing too few."

      It was only a transition issue, there is no mention about people forgetting about those coins in jars. A 1$ coin is useful, it's what is usually given as a tip for a beer in a pub, so I find the argument that people put them in jars kind of odd..


  • Value of $1 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SirGarlon ( 845873 ) on Friday November 30, 2012 @06:07PM (#42148317)
    According to Wolfram Alpha, $1 in 1950 had the approximate purchasing power of $9.54 today. So the dollar is the new dime. Pop quiz: did it make sense to print ten-cent notes in 1950? (Hint: no) Then why retain the $1 bill today?
  • by Todd Knarr ( 15451 ) on Friday November 30, 2012 @06:11PM (#42148379) Homepage

    We've tried several. The big problem is that the Treasury won't simply ditch the dollar bill in favor of coins. They try to issue the coins along with dollar bills, so of course people treat the coins as collectibles instead of currency and they never catch on.

    The right way to do it is to just do it: issue the coins and stop issuing dollar bills. Bills would still be in circulation and accepted, but no new $1 bills would be issued to banks. If a bank orders $1s, it'd receive them in coins. Any dollar bills received by the Federal Reserve banks or the Treasury would be destroyed, and any replacement would be done with coins. I figure within a year we'd be on coins completely, most dollar bills would've been returned as worn and destroyed and with no new bills being issued coins would become so prevalent that they wouldn't be collectibles anymore.

  • by Dwedit ( 232252 ) on Friday November 30, 2012 @06:36PM (#42148901) Homepage

    For anyone wondering where all the Sacajawea dollars went to, they are mostly in Ecuador. Ecuador uses US dollars as the currency, and people there use dollar coins all the time. You can see some photos of dirty tarnished dollar coins that have obviously been used, which is unheard of in the US.

  • by idji ( 984038 ) on Friday November 30, 2012 @06:36PM (#42148909)
    ..when they drop inches, Fahrenheit, SUVs, bipartisan politics, Creationism, buying on credit, pork barrelling, guns, corn syrup, jingoism, Hollywood and voting machines.

"Being against torture ought to be sort of a bipartisan thing." -- Karl Lehenbauer