Will the United States join other developed nations and...get rid of those beloved yet pesky dollar bills? Past attempts at US$1 coins did not do very well. The Eisenhower dollar coin made for a great saucer or frisbee but usually sat in a bowl on someone's dresser. The 1979 Susan B. Anthony dollar coin was a polite nod to the women's liberation movement of that decade but ended up less popular than Jimmy Carter. Sacagawea's mug shot made for a pretty gold tinted coin that was popular in casinos, transit systems, and Ecuador, but was still a flop. Finally, the presidential dollar coin has done a solid job in remember past presidential greats like Rutherford B. Hayes, but has proven less popular than the U.S. state quarter dollar series.
Now Congress again is mulling another attempt at rolling out dollar coins. The Currency Optimization, Innovation, and National Savings Program, or COINS Act, was introduced last week by Arizona Republican David Schweikert. At at time when the federal government is looking to cut costs just about everywhere, Schweikert suggests that the legislation to phase out $1 bills will reduce waste, figuratively and literally.
But could it work?
Plenty of countries have phased out currency notes of smaller denominations and have managed to function. In Japan, for example, the smallest note is a ¥1000 note, about US$7 to $12 depending on the Yen-Dollar Exchange rate. The beauty of Japanese currency is that vending machines happily eat those excess coins, and it is perfectly acceptable to buy a pack of gum with a ¥10,000 note. On the other side of the globe, the Euro zone's smallest note is a five Euro bill— €1 or €2 comes in the shape of the shiny (yet boring) coin. And north of the border, Canadians have long ditched small notes for the single "loonie" and two dollar "toonie." Considering the state of American politics, the Canadian term for its single dollar coin is nothing short of perfect.
But here's the catch: the only way a dollar coin would work is if the US$1 note is completely eliminated.
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