News Column

Resistance to $1 Coins Still Strong

Dec. 10, 2012

Brian Ianieri, The Press of Atlantic City, Pleasantville, N.J.

Lincoln dollar coin

Vincent Breslin knows the hassle of coins jingling in his pocket.

When he returns to his homeland in Donegal, Ireland, the Margate resident thinks nothing of paying in 1 euro and 2 euro coins -- the only form of those denominations in the European Union -- partially just to get rid of them.

But when someone buys an item at his Out of Ireland shop in Smithville, Galloway Township, Breslin would not dream of giving change in $1 coins.

"If somebody paid $10 and you gave them change in two-dollar coins? It wouldn't be done," he said.

Six times during the past 22 years, the U.S. government has studied the financial benefits of doing away with the $1 bill and reverting entirely to $1 coins.

Two weeks ago, the U.S. Government Accountability Office -- an independent investigative arm of Congress -- suggested it again in testimony before a House subcommittee.

The office's latest estimates suggest savings could reach $4.4 billion over 30 years, saying coins last more than six times longer than average bills.

But the office says Americans will only accept $1 coins if $1 bills are eliminated, similarly to how they were accepted throughout the years in countries such as Canada, which saved $450 million (Canadian) during five years by converting.

Breslin said he believes $1 coins would become an acceptable payment in this country if bills are phased out, a statement echoed by several U.S. representatives and federal officials at the Nov. 29 House Financial Services panel.

But like those who oppose the concept, Breslin said the coins have their own headaches.

"It does weigh you down, "he said. "There are a lot of coins that anytime you go to anywhere or to the supermarket, you always try to get rid of them. ... To be honest, it's a real pain."

A spokesman for U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-2nd, did not comment on the proposal, writing in an email that the congressman did not review the report by the Government Accountability Office, or GAO.

The GAO noted drawbacks in its report recommending the change, including added private-sector costs to modify equipment to accept $1 coins, as well as to store and transport the more voluminous coins. Due to higher upfront costs, it would take nearly a decade for the switch to start saving money, the report stated.

Other sectors and industries, including some vending machine companies, have supported the switch.

"There definitely would be an advantage to it," said Bradlee Whitson, operations manager for Bridgeton-based K&R Vending Services. The company has about 1,300 vending machines across South Jersey, all of which accept $1 coins.

"The mechanisms that take coins are much more reliable than the ones that take bills -- if (bills are) mashed up or wet, it can get jammed up. It could help cut down on repairs of vending machines," Whitson said, noting the company is in the process of rolling out vending machines that accept credit and debit cards.

Dollar coins have long been in circulation in the U.S., emblazoned with the likenesses of Susan B. Anthony, Sacagawea and U.S. presidents, but their popularity has been questionable.

In a March 2011 report, the GAO said Federal Reserve banks held 1.1 billion of the coins in storage due to limited demand.

Middle Township resident Pete Wilson buys coin collections as part of his business, North End Thrift, in the Villas section of Lower Township and in Cape May. Coins such as the Susan B. Anthony dollar are worth only face value, just like the series of quarters featuring states.

"There are plenty of nonsilver dollars in circulation already. It's just that you used to be able to go to a casino slot machine and use a silver dollar," he said. "I think it (a switch) could work, but how many of those things could you fit in your pocket? I guess you'd be spending your ones a lot quicker."

Wilson said he also can see the inconveniences of only using dollar coins, including lugging sacks of them around.

But things change, he said.

"I didn't grow up with a cellphone or laptop. I'm sure my grandkids could grow up without a paper dollar bill. What can you really buy now for a dollar bill anyway?"



Source: (c)2012 The Press of Atlantic City (Pleasantville, N.J.) Distributed by MCT Information Services