Tag: Sacagawea dollar

The Dollar Dilemma

I’m not sure how you guys feel about dollar coins. I’ve spent many months in countries, particularly Australia, that have dollar coins. They are massively more convenient than bills, in my opinion. I really can’t understand why they haven’t caught on in this country. It seems mainly to be inertia. We don’t use dollar coins because … we don’t use dollar coins.

Well that … and strippers tend to get annoyed when you try to put coins in their g-strings.

I think the main problem is that we keep printing dollar bills, which only feeds the inertia. If the mint announced to the American people, “Hey, we’re no longer making dollar bills! Deal with it!” there would be a huge outcry followed, within a year, by everyone learning to live with it. The same thing goes for the tremendous amount of money we waste making useless pennies. If we abolished the penny, coin collectors would scream. Within a year, we’d be fine.

It’s not clear to me that switching to dollar coins would save any money in the long haul. Coins and bills are a means of exchanging goods, not goods themselves. But if we’re going to do it, let’s do it. Either switch to dollar coins completely or give up on it.

Still, it takes a Congress to look at this issue and … find the dumbest possible course of action when it comes to dollar coins:

Unused dollar coins have been quietly piling up in Federal Reserve vaults in breathtaking numbers, thanks to a government program that has required their production since 2007.

And even though the neglected mountain of money recently grew past the $1 billion mark, the U.S. Mint will keep making more and more of the coins under a congressional mandate.

The pile of idle coins, which so far cost $300 million to manufacture, could double by the time the program ends in 2016, the Federal Reserve told Congress last year.

A joint inquiry by NPR’s Planet Money and Investigations teams found that the coins are the wasteful byproducts of a third, failed congressional effort to get Americans to use one-dollar coins in everyday commerce.

Read the article and you’ll find some really hilarious quotes. The most recent idea was to put all of the Presidents on the coins on the idea that people would see them as “educational”. But people don’t use coins to educate, they use them to buy things. If I want my daughter to know who the 13th President was, I’ll show her wikipedia and keep my dollar for the strippers (or at my age, the vending machine).

When they revised the dollar coins, they insisted that, despite the Presidential heads educational initiative, at least 20% of the new coins had to be made with Sacagawea on them. Because we all remember the riots that rocked the country when, for a brief period, it looked the dollar coins we’re not using would not be embossed with the face of someone we never heard of.

I actually have several of the dollar coins on me and they are quite pretty. It would be great if I could use them in vending machines or on the Pennsylvania turnpike. But until Congress and the mint shit or get off the pot, that won’ happen. And those coins will continue to sit in a vault, draining money from the treasury.