'US could save USD 150m/year if Americans accept USD 1 coin'

Written by PTI | Washington | Updated: Dec 2 2013, 01:07am hrs
US dollarLast year, more USD 1 coins were returned to the Federal Reserve than were paid out (Reuters)
The US could save about USD 150 million a year if it switched from USD 1 paper notes to USD 1 coins, according to an official report.

But each attempt to introduce a new USD 1 coin seems to just fall flat with the public.

The Federal Reserve Banks hold about USD 1.4 billion in USD 1 coins -- enough to meet the country's demand for the next 40 years.

In fact, far more than half of all USD 1 coins ever minted are in government vaults.

Last year, more USD 1 coins were returned to the Federal Reserve than were paid out. More business returned the unpopular coin than asked for them. So the government's stockpile actually grew, says a Government Accountability Office report.

The report traces the history of the USD 1 presidential coins from their inception in Congress in 2005, through initial distribution in 2007, through 2011 when the mint stopped making them because of a lack of public appetite to their current ignoble status as the coin that is now costly to store, CNN reported.

The USD 1 coins are durable and can be used easily in vending machines. They far outlast paper money. But in the public opinion contest, paper always won, the report said.

The public's preference comes at a cost. The federal government would save USD 4.4 billion over 30 years -- or about USD 150 million a year -- if US Congress decided to go metal, according to the GAO, which would like to see the USD 1 paper notes phased out.

One way to tilt public opinion would be to eliminate USD 1 notes, the GAO said. In Canada and the United Kingdom, public resistance to coins dissipated within years when there was "no alternative to the note," the GAO said.

Dollar coins are also supported by the Dollar Coin Alliance, a group that includes vending and snack food associations, mining interests and a carwash association.

But the Treasury Department -- which currently mints only a limited number of USD 1 presidential coins for collectors -- is not swayed.

"Minting USD 1 coins that ultimately end up sitting in Federal Reserve Bank vaults -- and serve no useful purpose for businesses, financial institutions and consumers -- is simply not a prudent use of taxpayer resources," the Treasury Department said when it stopped production of the coins.

So the government continues to mint copper pennies, which are largely zinc, and which since 2006 have cost more than a penny to produce. And it mints nickels, which cost more than a nickel to produce. But it eschews dollar coins.