Give us dollar coins to use as real money
The U.S. Mint is unveiling designs for past presidents to be featured on one-dollar coins.
DOLLAR coins bearing the likenesses of past presidents will begin circulating in February and will extend for a decade, much as state quarters were distributed. The significant difference, continuing the dismal record of Susan B. Anthony and Sacagawea dollars, is that nobody will use the coins to buy something. That will happen only when the dollar bill is eliminated and the $2 bill expanded.
While the rest of the world has adjusted its currency to inflation, the United States continues to produce pennies and dollar bills at a loss. Attempts to modernize the currency have been bogged down in the past decade over parochial interests.
As a result, the U.S. Mint continues to pound out pennies at a cost of 1.4 cents apiece. A dollar bill costs 4 cents to make and a coin costs 8 cents, but a bill wears out in less than year and a half, compared to a coin's longevity of 30 years. The Federal Reserve Board and Government Accountability Office estimate that turning from paper to metal dollars would save $450 million a year.
A two-euro coin is worth more than $2.50, while paper money starts at five euros. Even before the euro's adoption in 1999, most European countries produced coins that began far above the U.S. dollar in value. Canada replaced its dollar bill with a coin in 1987, and the initial outcry has disappeared. Japanese don't reach for the billfold until the tab exceeds $8.50.
What is holding back the United States? Key opponents of the dollar bill's phaseout have been Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi, where the cotton industry provides fabrics for the paper money, and Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, home of Crane Paper Co., producer of the U.S. banknote paper.
Chief promoter of the currency change has been Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz. His bill would undermine the penny, which is 97.5 percent Tennessean zinc, and bolster the nickel, which -- like the dollar coins -- is made mostly from Arizona copper.
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