- Politics and Social Issues
Dollar Coin: Three Strikes You're Out
U.S. President Millard Fillmore
Sacagawea Dollar Coin
President Dwight D. Eisenhower
Whenever I see a report about the (re)current idea of replacing greenbacks with new $1 coins I suffer a mild case of deja vu. Don't you?
After the government's experience with the Dwight D. Eisenhower and Susan B. Anthony dollar coins, you'd think the idea would be rejected out of hand.
But, no. It keeps coming back, not so much like a song as, perhaps, like a bad penny.
But wouldn't it be wise to take a close look at the reasons the scheme didn't work in the first place?
Dollar Coin Idea Resurrected
Some members of Congress, bent on delivering a double-barreled barrage on the country's financial deficit, have resurrected the dollar-coin idea, even though any supposed savings would be neither immediate nor significant.
Their idea is that dollar coins would last longer than paper money; bills don't last very long. The U.S. Treasury Department has to keep the presses humming almost constantly to keep enough bills in circulation. It's expensive.
Coins, on the other hand, would last much longer -- saving millions of dollars.
The Other Side of the Coin
On the other side of the coin, however, the whole scheme will be folly if the public fails to accept the new coins; the government could lose, not save, money.
It's not hard to imagine the Treasury Department renting vast storage areas to house newly minted coins near where it already has stockpiled the unwanted Eisenhower and Anthony coins.
The Eisenhower dollar found little favor among Americans because of its immense size; it weighs a ton. The Anthony dollar fell flat even before it achieved any significant circulation because it is so nearly the size and weight of a quarter that, too often, it caused great confusion.
I have several Eisenhower dollars in my minuscule coin collection at home; yes, and I have a few Anthony dollars as well. Doesn't everyone?
Confused With Quarters
Although it's been many years since the Anthony dollar was introduced, I vividly recall my late grandmother's angry incantations whenever she pulled a coin from her purse. She was in her 70s at the time and her eyesight was failing. Invariably she would hand me a quarter, or an Anthony dollar, and ask: Is this a quarter?
To avoid the recurrent pleas of merchants who always seem to ask "Do you have anything smaller?" I always try to keep a few dollar bills in my wallet.
Obviously, I couldn't do that if the government were to quit printing one-dollar bills and begin stamping out one-dollar coins -- whatever their size and shape!
Annoying Nickels, Dimes, Quarters
I find it so annoying to carry nickels, dimes and quarters in my pockets (I rarely come across half-dollar or dollar coins) that I empty my pockets of such heavy, annoying coins each morning. At any given time, one small compartment of my desk drawer is chock full of unwanted change; sometimes, however, my associates find the cache useful for making change of a dollar bill for nearby vending machines.
Like everyone else, I fill any number of jars I find at home with the all-but-useless pennies that find their way into my pockets. I also have another small stash of nickels, dimes and quarters (at home.)
Personally, I wouldn't give you a plug nickel for the chances of any new $1 coin.
I wrote this column for The Hour newspaper of Norwalk, Conn. It appeared on June 10, 1995 as a My View." At the time, I was a reporter and editor at The Hour, where I spent 32 years, from November 1968 until I retired on June 1, 2000.