The Dollar Bill Could Soon Be a Thing of the Past

The federal government could save about $4.4 billion over 30 years by getting rid of the dollar bill all together and switching to dollar coins, according to the Government Accountability Office (GOA).

That may not be a lot in the grand scheme of the federal deficit (over $16 trillion), but in times like these, as we skid toward the fiscal cliff, it may be time to pinch pennies — or dollar coins.

The savings is in the durability — a dollar coin can last an estimated 30 years, while the dollar bill can only survive about five. And unlike the penny, the notoriously cost inefficient coin that costs more to produce than it’s worth, the dollar coins only cost about 30 cents to produce.

The $1 coin didn’t get a very warm reception from the public, mixing in with quarters and pennies, getting lost in pockets, couch cushions and desk drawers. They were so unpopular, in fact, that the Federal Reserve didn’t produce any last year, and is just sitting on more than half of the dollar coins currently in circulation. In a 2006 Gallup poll, an overwhelming 79% of Americans were opposed to replacing the bill with the coin.

People have a tendency to resist change, but hated or not, we may soon have to get used to dollar coins and say goodbye to George Washington’s green face. Besides, with more and more transactions taking place online, with credit cards, or even by holding up an iPhone to a scanner, will we even be using cash often enough or for long enough for this conversation to matter?

In its recommendation to phase out the dollar bill and increase production of the dollar coin, the GOA took into account the public disdain for the coin, and recommended spending $8 million to convince the public that it’s a good idea. But if the point is to save money, I think they should just do it, sparing the expense of a coddling campaign to hold the public’s hand through this traumatic and oh-so-important transition. We’ll survive. 

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Lilly O'Donnell

Lilly O'Donnell is a freelance writer, currently working on her first book.

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