Dollar Coins versus Dollar Bills

Here we go again – coins versus bills.  (See our earlier post Vocal minority – dollar coins back in July.)

Some members of Congress want to decrease the number of dollar coins being minted due to the large stockpile of coins held by the US Mint.

Other members agree with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that significant savings could be had with the demise of the dollar bill and the increase of the dollar coin.

Now, the GAO does advise that we the people – as individuals, as businesses and as government – would incur costs in the first year when the dollar bill is no longer produced. But, they also advise that those costs could be recouped within just a few years.

Years ago, we had large and heavy silver dollars circulating called “cartwheels.” Those were ended in 1935. The dollar coins were missing from the US Mint’s production until 1971 when the Eisenhower dollar made its first appearance.

The new Eisenhower dollar was the same size as the earlier silver dollar cartwheel, but it did not contain the silver content of the earlier dollar coin. There were collectible versions with 40% silver but not the 90% silver.

With a lack of acceptance in circulating the coins, the US Mint’s production of the Eisenhower dollar coins was stopped after just a few years. The Eisenhower dollars have dates from 1971 through 1978.

Some thought a smaller, lighter dollar coin would be more popular with the general public. Along came the hotly contested Susan B. Anthony dollar. Expecting a large demand, the US Mint made hundreds of millions of these coins only to see them remain in their storage areas.

Many people did not like the Susan B. Anthony dollars because of their size. They are larger in diameter than a quarter, yet the two coins can be easily confused. People did not like losing $0.75 when they confused the dollar for the a quarter.

The Susan B. Anthony dollar coins were initially minted in 1979 through 1981 though the 1981 coins were only distributed in uncirculated mint sets.

Congress still wanted a dollar coin for circulation. This time, they specified a golden color to remove the visual confusion with the quarter. But, due to the vending machines already modified for the size of the Susan B. Anthony dollar, the size of the new dollar coin was kept the same.

Interestingly, before the US Mint could produce the new golden dollars, the existing vending industry needed more dollar coins. Thus, the Susan B. Anthony design came out of its storage to be struck once more in 1999.

In 2000, the new golden dollar featuring Sacagawea was produced. Again, expecting large demands, the US Mint produced hundreds of millions of the new golden dollar.

In 2001, the production decreased significantly.  Another dramatic decrease in production occurred in 2002. From 2002 through 2007, the circulating production numbers remained under ten million. In 2008, circulating production increased to 25 million.

In 2009, the Native American dollar coin was introduced keeping the Sacagawea obverse and introducing a new reverse in each year.

Another set of golden dollars was introduced in 2007, the presidential dollar series. This series introduced four new presidential dollars each year honoring our presidents in the order in which they served.

In 2007, for President Washington, the US Mint produced over 300 million coins. For Adams and Jefferson, over 200 million coins were made for circulation.

Subsequent presidential coins have experienced a continued reduction in the number minted. Even for President Lincoln in 2010, less than 100 million were struck for the public.

Even with the reduction in the numbers minted, the US Mint continues to store large stockpiles (over $1.2 billion) of the excess dollar coins.

Per the GAO, we could save billions of dollars since the dollar coins last significantly longer than the dollar bills – 30 years versus 3 years.

Maybe the savings number is valid, but is the American public ready to go without the dollar bill?

It seems the American public with a choice between the dollar coin and the dollar bill has chosen the dollar bill every time. That’s why the Eisenhower, the Susan B. Anthony and the golden dollars have not been popular. The American public does not want them.

People wanting the dollar coin claim that the dollar bill should be taken away. They claim that other countries have done it – Canada, France, United Kingdom, Australia, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Russia and Spain to name a few.

Doesn’t this remind you of the times when you told your mother that all your friends were “doing it” and she replied, “If they jumped off a cliff, would you jump too?”

In other words, just because other countries have done it doesn’t make it necessarily a good thing for us to do.

Frankly, our government representatives in Washington are getting irritating with all of the things they’re telling us we have to do.

Then again, there could be business opportunities if the dollar bill is removed from circulation. Just think of the suspenders you could sell to help keep men’s pants up. Or, what about selling women’s purses with wheels to help with the extra weight.  

There are proposals to remove the dollar bill to save money in the budget cut discussions. On the other hand, there are bills from both the Senate and the House to reduce the dollar coinage, even to stop the presidential dollar series, required from the US Mint.

The next few weeks and months should prove interesting to the dollar coins.