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House panel coin idea’s been – unsuccessfully – tried before

We’ve heard this before.

Americans would be better served if the $1 bill were replaced with a coin. The nation would save $4.4 billion in printing costs over the next three decades because coins would last 30 years, compared to a bill’s four or five years.

Vending machine operators like them, too, because coins don’t get mangled or stuck the way bills do.

So a House subcommittee looked into the issue last week, studying whether to change the coin’s metal makeup and whether to phase out the $1 bill.

Here are three more issues the government should study:

Susan B. Anthony, Sacagawea and the presidents.

In 1979, the government began issuing Susan B. Anthony coins with hopes they eventually would replace the bill for the same reasons cited now. But the coin minted in recognition of the pioneer for women’s voting rights flopped, largely because it looked and felt too much like a quarter. The government gave up after two years, but did mint nearly 50 million more in 1999 as proof collector sets. It took five years to sell them.

The government tried again in 2000, with the Sacagawea dollar, named in honor of the Native American who was the guide for explorers Lewis and Clark.

The gold tint was more striking than the Susan B. Anthony, but despite the difference – and a marketing campaign – once again, the dollar coin flopped, though the U.S. Mint still produces them.

The government tried again in 2007, hoping to follow the success of the quarters honoring each state with a dollar coin honoring each president. The Mint got up to president No, 24, Grover Cleveland (who was also the subject of another coin as the 22nd president).

But the Mint suspended placing them into circulation, once again because they just were not popular enough. Beginning with William McKinley, only limited amounts will be made for collectors.

By the end of 2011, the government had an astonishing 1.4 billion one-dollar coins in storage and predicted that if the presidential coin program continued in earnest, the number would rise to 2 billion.

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