It wasn’t long ago that the price of copper started rise to the level where a pound of pennies (about 145) cost more than their face value to produce. The last year a 95% copper penny was made was 1982, just under 17 billion pennies minted that year. Since then, pennies have been made of zinc with a plating of copper less than 1% of the penny’s weight. By the way, if you want to try to tell the difference between a current penny or a pre-1982 cent, just drop it on the table, the copper cent has a slight ring, but the zinc just a mild thud. Still, with the price of zinc rising as well, there are efforts to stop producing the penny and just rounding purchases. We’ll see if the penny leaves our change purses one day.
But, that’s all an introduction. It seems now the dollar bill is now at risk. Earlier this year, the GAO (Government Accountability Office) produced a report concluding that by removing the dollar bill from circulation and forcing the distribution of the dollar coin, the government can save nearly $5.5 billion over 30 years or $184 million dollars per year net present benefit. When we look at the Federal Budget of $3.7 trillion dollars (That’s 3,700 billions) this savings might seem small. But, to quote Senator Everett Dirksen, ““A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.” In this case, let’s kill the paper and start to look for other ways to save a couple hundred million dollars, soon, we’ll be talking real money.
How would 4 dollar coins feel in your pocket? I often find the quarters adding up, and pulled eight out of my pocket last night. They weighed 45 grams, just a bit more than 5 dollar coins weigh. So, to keep my pockets from ripping, I’d probably be just a bit more careful to spend the change when I spend cash and don’t charge a small item. What would you miss more, the penny, or the dollar bill? I do have one proposal. If we get rid of George’s bill, let’s keep minting his image on the coin, at least for some fraction of coins per year. And then just mint as many as it takes to keep the cashiers happy.