The Time For Change Has Come

By Ralph Echtinaw

Have you ever resisted some change that came along but grew to like it after a short while? My guess is that you have. It seems to be human nature to want to stick with what is familiar.

Such is the case with the American people and dollar coins. Most of us don’t like them.

It’s interesting that we have a federal government (until recently anyway) that isn’t shy about foisting dubious major changes on we the people, but when it comes to streamlining our coins and currency it acts with the greatest timidity.

Four times since 1971 our government has tried to get Americans to accept dollar coins as a replacement for dollar bills, which is a great cost-saving measure because coins last far longer than currency.

First there was the Eisenhower dollar in 1971, replaced by the Susan B. Anthony dollar in 1979, replaced by the Sacagawea (a.k.a. Sasquatch) dollar in 2000, replaced by dollar coins depicting US presidents in 2007. Those were discontinued in 2011, and we await our government’s next attempt to get Americans to use dollar coins.

People don’t like dollar coins for some reason. I was told by Redbird owner Greg Garberson that he has tried to give dollar coins as change when people make purchases, but too many of them asked if they could have dollar bills instead. So he gave up and just takes whatever dollar coins he has to the bank.

Personally, I keep an old 35mm film can stocked with dollar coins in my car. They frequently come in handy to make change for window cleaning customers when I run out of dollar bills.

Another problem our government experienced with dollar coins is that people get one and immediately become a coin collector. Folks who have no clue what the definition of numismatics is obtain a dollar coin and their first thought is to hoard it.

What I don’t understand is why a government that has no problem banning prayer in public schools, or requiring self-employed folks to pay taxes in four annual installments has been so scared so far to simply stop making dollar bills so people will have no choice but to use dollar coins.

Are politicians afraid the people will come after them with pitchforks if dollar bills are taken out of production?

You’d have to look long and hard to find an American who doesn’t favor efficient, frugal government. Yet most of us are opposed to a switch to dollar coins over dollar bills even though it’s a cost saver. Hello, people! The government did something that would reduce the expense to taxpayers of producing money, and taxpayers said, “To hell with that! We like our dollar bills better!”

Dollar coins are no stranger to Canadians. The “Loonie” was introduced in 1987, and the Canadian dollar bill was discontinued two years later. To quote from Wikipedia, “Initial support for the coin was mixed, but withdrawing the banknote forced acceptance of the coin. The Loonie has subsequently gained iconic status within Canada and is now regarded as a national symbol.”

In 1996 the Canadian government went farther and introduced a two-dollar coin that quickly became known as the “Toonie.” The discontinued two-dollar banknotes were less expensive to produce but wore out in just one year, as opposed to 20 years for coins.

I seldom say, “Why can’t our government be more like Canada’s?” But in this instance I can say it without reservation.

Another place we could save money is in pennies. The value of this coin has fallen so far that the only place you can spend one is in the horsey ride at Meijer. It costs more to produce pennies than they’re worth, and the only thing they’re good for is to see that you don’t get more of them when you buy something.

So while we’re getting over our fear of dollar coins and two-dollar coins, let’s eliminate pennies as well. Transactions could be rounded to the nearest nickel, and we taxpayers would save a bundle by not having to pay for minting eight billion pennies a year because so many of them are taken out of circulation one way or another.

Canadians are ahead of us in regard to pennies, too, having ceased production in 2012. Australia and New Zealand also did away with pennies.

Of course, this may all be moot in near future, as we seem to be moving to an invisible money system. Credit cards, debit cards, gift cards and Paypal may be the only money any of us “handle” 20 years from now.

Ralph Echtinaw is a former newspaper reporter/editor (1988-2001), current small business owner and resident of St. Louis, Michigan

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