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Why the US Keeps Minting Coins People Hate 89

CeruleanDragon writes "In hidden vaults across the country, the US government is building a stockpile of $1 coins. The hoard has topped $1.1bn — imagine a stack of coins reaching almost seven times higher than the International Space Station — and the piles have grown so large the US Federal Reserve is running out of storage space."


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Why the US Keeps Minting Coins People Hate

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  • I can probably find storage space for a couple hundreds of thousands.
    • But of course yearly storage fees for a couple hundreds of thousands would be... a couple hundreds of thousands
  • Where to get them... (Score:3, Informative)

    by johndiii ( 229824 ) * on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @12:23PM (#33216542) Journal

    If you want some dollar coins, they are commonly dispensed in vending machines in the post office. After spending some time in Canada, I think that they work well - despite my initial surprise. It would be helpful to have a two dollar coin as well, one that is clearly distinguishable from the one dollar.

    I have a few of them laying around - Monroe, Washington, and a couple of Madisons, as well as a few of the Sacagaweas, Eisenhowers, and Anthonys. I think that I'm going to start using them.

    • by CaptainNerdCave ( 982411 ) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @01:27PM (#33217640)

      When I deposit paychecks, I ask for a couple rolls ($25 rolls). I've been using this latest dollar coin when going to restaurants. My reasoning is that using it as tip money will get it into more people's hands than just spending them in businesses (which I also do).

      I developed an appreciation for bigger value coins after spending a month in Germany a couple years ago.

    • by batquux ( 323697 )

      You can also get them straight off the US Mint for $1 each, and they pay shipping. They come in increments of $250 though.$1directShip []

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by JWSmythe ( 446288 )

      Americans are used to the fact that $1 and up are paper currency, and anything less than $1 is coinage.

      It took me all of a whopping few seconds to become familiar with the Canadian Loonie [] and toonie [], even though every time I say it, I think of Looney Tunes []. :)

      I think part of the American aversion to the $1 coin is the fact that they can't be used in any automated equipment. I can't say that I've seen any American vending machines that support the $1 coin. Out of habit, I

      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Every vending machine I've used in the last five years has accepted both the old Susan B's and the new gold dollars.

        •     I need to go where you are. The largest coins I've seen accepted locally in vending machines are $0.25 .

              Next time I'm out and about, I'll pay more attention to vending machines. I don't use them too often, unless I'm doing a lot of shopping and end up with change in my pockets. I never start the day with coins in my pockets.

          • Come to Canada. I can't remember ever seeing a vending machine accept bills. All of ours take coins, up to and including the $1 coin and the $2 coin.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by hipp5 ( 1635263 )

        The only way the $1 coin will ever be adopted is if they stop circulating the $1 paper currency. Additionally, it will require vending machine companies to replace all their coin slots to accept $1 coins, rather than having the $1 bill slot. While it shouldn't be an impossible task, since coin slots are available in other countries, and there should be an easy migration route, it would still be an expense.

        Ehh it's not too big a deal. I remember when they came out with the toonie and the vendors complained about having to update their machines. They got over it though.

        There are problems though. Either it would reduce the tips in strip clubs, since you couldn't pay in $1 bills, or it would increase their revenue since you'd now be paying with $5 bills. No girl likes coins tossed at her.

        Funny you should mention that. I've heard tell from my oil field buddies that there are strip clubs in Alberta where the girls have set up a little game. The game works like this: they tape stuff to their nipples (usually posters and such), and the audience throws loonies at them. If you knock the object off with your loonie you get to keep it a

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Hognoxious ( 631665 )

        There were similar complaints when the "Thatcher" pound coin was introduced in England. I worked in a pub at the time and people used to confuse it with the five pence piece, despite being gold coloured and about three times as thick.

        Now the colour I can excuse - the warm lighting makes them all look yellow - but how they didn't notice the thickness is beyond me. Maybe because all the others were roughly the same, so it wasn't a factor previously?

        Before that, there were the same complaints [] when they phase

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by JWSmythe ( 446288 )

          It may have been because you worked in a pub. After a few too many drinks, people get confused about all kinds of things. :)

          Last night, on the way home from a bar, we saw a big piece of something blowing around in the turn lane we needed to get into. As we came up on it, it wasn't a something, it was a lady laying in the road. We stopped, blocking the road, so no one would hit her, and got her out of the road. She was confused between a bed and a highway. She wasn't hurt,

      • Modern vending machines use software to distinguish between different coins and I'm sure upgrading the firmware once would be a lot cheaper than forever including $1 bill reading mechanisms in the machines.

        As for "how long would it take?" in Europe the complete switch over from local currency to Euros took about three days. The shops had instructions to only give change in Euros so once you spent the money in your pocket that was it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @12:53PM (#33217032)

    and the problem goes away real fast.

    • by Syberz ( 1170343 )

      That's what we did in Canada for the 1$ and then 2$ coins. Since you couldn't get the paper version at the bank anymore, you didn't have a choice. Only took a few years to phase out the paper versions.

      Plus they were designed in such a way that they could easily be identified in your pocket, that helped too.

  • I'm sure they could engage the pentagon to create an extremely lethal weapon based around these pieces of ammunition.

  • by euyis ( 1521257 ) <euyis@infinity-ga m e .com> on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @02:00PM (#33218186)
    Imagine soldiers firing compact railguns with these dollars as ammo at the bad guys... extremly effective if the enemies run to pick up the coins.
  • Dumb coins (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PCM2 ( 4486 ) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @02:17PM (#33218454) Homepage

    One reason Americans have resisted dollar coins is because the Mint has made dumb decisions about the coins.

    The Eisenhower dollar was large and heavy. Its diameter made it uncomfortable to put in a change pocket. So when they created the Susan B. Anthony dollar, they decided to make it smaller -- small enough, in fact, that it was easily mistaken for a quarter. People ended up handing out quarters when they were looking for dollars and vice versa. You couldn't easily tell which was which just by reaching into your pocket.

    The new dollar coins are gold-colored instead of silver, but they retain the dimensions of the Susan B. Anthony dollar. That's smart in one sense, because it means vending machines that take the old dollar coins can still take the new ones. But it's also stupid, because almost no vending machines take Susan B. Anthony dollars, since nobody uses them (or if they do accept them, they register as quarters). So in the end, consumers see the new coins as just gold versions of the old coins, and they don't want to get burned again -- leading to the problem cited in the article, where customers and businesses alike are reluctant to accept them. Most people I know aren't even totally sure if the dollar coins are genuine legal tender or if they're just some kind of passing fad that will be unusable in a few years, like out-of-date postage stamps (and this doubt is exacerbated by the fact that they keep changing the pictures on the front, so they seem like collector's coins).

    Contrast this to the UK and EU, each of which took pains to differentiate their highest-value coins from the others. Both the 1 Euro and 1 Pound coins are notably thicker than other coins, in addition to being a unique size, which makes them more easily recognizable by touch. (As an aside, European notes tend to have specific sizes for each denomination, too, while the U.S. notes are all the same size, making it difficult for blind people to choose one from the other.)

    If the U.S. Mint would just smarten up, maybe it wouldn't keep wasting money like this.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Mr. Flibble ( 12943 )

      The US Mint needs to do what the Canadian Mint did. Back when the Loonie came out, they stopped making $1 bills. I admit I hated it at the time, but it saved taxpayers loads of money as there was no alternative to the loonie as the dollar bills began to degrade. The same thing happened when the Toonie came out and replaced the $2 bill as well.

      Just making coins but continuing to make paper bills of the same value is dumb.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by RobinH ( 124750 )

        There's just a huge cultural difference between the US and Canada when it comes to change (no pun intended). When things in the US change, the populace attacks the current government for being in office at the time. In Canada, the view is just, "whatever, I guess that's progress... sure is going to wear out your pocket a bit sooner." Heck, they just pushed through the HST in Ontario and nobody batted an eyelash.

        I think that in Canada we *expect* to delegate decisions like this to the government, and we g

        • I think that in Canada we *expect* to delegate decisions like this to the government, and we go along with the choices because it's their job to research the options and make good choices.

          That's not a good thing. Besides shirking the civic responsibility for debate, it indicates the concerns of the minority are being disregarded. Even if you elected the representative in question, you have a right to question his decisions. Naturally, in a republic your true power is in the ballot box, but keeping spee

        • The situation here in Australia is similar to Canada I think. One thing about the US is that they have this one guy for whom the buck stops at his desk. He (or she) seems to get stuck with all sorts of stupid decisions which should never get to his level. In Australia the mint or the note printing people release new notes and coins from time to time. They commission artists to do the artwork and that creates interest. It doesn't become an issue for the Prime Minister so there is a minimum of stupid argument

    • We have 1 dollar coins in Australia. They are the same size as a 10c coin. We have 2 dollar coins, they are the same size as a 5c coin. Nobody here seems to have a problem confusing them. Maybe Americans are just a bit thick.
      •     There are "thick" people in any country. Most of us can look at our money and know what we have.

            I was in Canada for a while, and liked the Loonie and Toonie. It would be nice if they were adopted here. Then again, 10 $1 bills are always going to be lighter than 10 $1 coins, and the bills will always fit better in your wallet. :)

      • They were however thicker and made to have a gold colour instead of the silver 10c and 5c coins. Still people had a good old fashioned whinge about them. The government stood their ground and sure enough the whinging stopped and people moved on with their lives. Plus there was the big old stink about removing 1c and 2c coins from circulation. People have better things to do then worry about coins.

        It should be noted however that people would glue 10c and 5c coins together and paint them gold to pass them
        • I get New Zealand 20c and 10c coins all the time. It doesn't bother me at all, because all shops will take them anyway. Once I did get one coin that was the same size as a 10c coin, I think it was a peso or something like that. How stingy do people have to be to glue 2 10c coins together and use it as a dollar, geez it's only a dollar it's not like it's some huge sum of money that you just can't afford to spend...
          • NZ have totally replaced the coins which looked like Australian coins. Their new coins are smaller than ours now and better IMHO.

      • Here in the USA, our straw men are exceedingly thick.
    • Actually, there is one class of vending machines that handles Susan B's correctly: postage stamp machines in post offices. And the way they give change for amounts over a dollar is to clunk it out in Susan B's.

      The other problem with dollar coins (which was not pointed out in the article) is that lots on cash registers don't have a slot for them. So they don't get stocked, and the clerk has to plunk them in with something else when he/she gets them.
    • by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Friday August 13, 2010 @03:29AM (#33236444) Homepage Journal

      Contrast this to the UK and EU

      You were doing so well up until that point. Don't you know it's unAmerican to do what other countries do, even if it's demonstrably superior?

      I can imagine the headline if theodp saw your post in a news story: "US plans to adopt Euro!".

      • Contrast this to the UK and EU

        You were doing so well up until that point. Don't you know it's unAmerican to do what other countries do, even if it's demonstrably superior?

        I can imagine the headline if theodp saw your post in a news story: "US plans to adopt Euro!".

        Now you've got me going. I am going to have to read Distraction [] again.

    • But it's also stupid, because almost no vending machines take Susan B. Anthony dollars, since nobody uses them (or if they do accept them, they register as quarters).

      I've never heard of this. Modern equipment is far too discerning, or else the old slugs would still work. Besides, the slot would be too small. I'm not an expert, but I did work for Mars (MEI) for a short time so I had the privilege of learning about some of their coin acceptors.
      Also, the SBA had an octagonal rim, the Sacajawea has a smo

  • Good for (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @03:07PM (#33219130) Homepage Journal
    • Tooth Fairy deliveries
    • Tips while travelling
    • Buy a soda
    • Feed into a vending machine (coins >>> bills).

    With the dollar having lost more than 7X its value in the past 50 years, there's no reason now that dollar coins can't act like quarters and five dollar bills take the lowest-denomination paper spot, relative to how people used to behave. People leave pennies and sometimes nickels behind - that's an indication of value. Trouble is, a decimal system of money makes inflationary policy cumbersome.

    The non-use of the coin dollar in favor of the paper dollar, might actually be a tribute to the value of the coin dollar according to Gresham's Law [].

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by zoney_ie ( 740061 )

      I find it very difficult to use American change - as even if there was more widespread use of the dollar coin, the quarter is a bit awkward compared to having both 20c and 50c coins.

      Also one wouldn't end up with so many pennies if there were 2c coins.

      In general I'm a bit fan of the euro coins, even if they are a bit more regular than the old Irish pound coins (on the plus side, a small 2c rather than the gigantic 2p coin). I miss the 50p coin, which was seven-sided like the UK's.

      Anyway, cash in the US is a

      • Crazy that a dollar note is the same size as $50!

        Well, they're both intrinsically worthless! Say, how do vending machines over your way handle processing of multiple bill sizes?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by sjames ( 1099 )

          On the other hand, having all our bills the same size is hard on blind people.

        • Say, how do vending machines over your way handle processing of multiple bill sizes?

          I've used unmanned filling stations in Italy and bought metro tickets in Belgium and they work just fine, actually.

          Since Yoorpians are clearly inferior due to the fact that they are not number one, I can only conclude that they don't employ technology to solve this insurmountable problem; there must be a midget hiding inside.

          • I don't get your weird paranoia thing. Care to answer the question of how they handle multiple bill sizes? Variable straightening guides? Some sort of auto-straighteners?

            • Optical readers in the visible and invisible spectrum and software that can allow for edges that aren't razor straight? It's a reasonable guess.

              As far as I know, all modern banknotes - except for the US dollars - works on the system that more valuable notes are physically larger than less valuable ones. Since the world outside the US has vending machines capable of accepting banknotes, it stands to reason the solution is trivial to implement - and I'm assuming it involves UV light for the fluorescent print,

              • Optical readers in the visible and invisible spectrum and software that can allow for edges that aren't razor straight? It's a reasonable guess.

                Yeah, I guess the rollers could just be wide enough to handle the largest note on the diagonal. I've got a laser printer that if you don't feed in the paper with the straighteners will make a spitball out of the paper. I'd love to have one that could deal with paper on an arbitrary skew.

          • So long as the slot is big enough for the biggest note then what does it matter?

            nb. Compare the size of a crumpled banknote with a new one - the crumpled on is smaller! Oh, noes...!

        • Well, they're both intrinsically worthless!

          Yes, stupid GP for suggesting the value should be proportional to the size! Oh hang on, he didn't say that, did he?

          This 200 buck beach towel is bloody awkward, I'd better go change it for a stack of A4 sized tens.

          • Yes, stupid GP for suggesting the value should be proportional to the size! Oh hang on, he didn't say that, did he?

            Oh, snap, and neither did I! He said it was crazy that they were the same size. I made a tangential joke towards about that. Happy Easter, yo.

      • My wallet's enough of a mess without the bills all being different sizes.
        • The 50 notes fit comfortably in wallets here (including pre-euro) and other denominations are all smaller (5 is dinky). You won't usually have 100/200/500 notes (at least here in Ireland. People here do use large amounts of cash at times, but wads of 50s are more usual, only occasionally 100s).

      • The USA used to have 20 cent coins, but they weren't popular. Then again, that was something like 130 years ago.
    • sounds like they are good for paying my kids' allowance, so they have a barrier from buying junk food from snack machines.

  • FTA:

    Yet the piles have continued to grow because the law requires the US Mint to issue four new presidential coins each year even if most of the previous year's coins remain in government vaults.

    The 50-states quarters that they spent the last decade were a pretty big success, and there were alot of people collecting them (at least I remember seeing alot of special kits for holding all your quarters on sale), so why not do a "44 presidents" set?

    Better yet, we could just repeal this stupid law, but that's just too damn logical for Congress.

    • why not do a "44 presidents" set?

      They are. [] It's been running since 2007. The article summary even says "the US Mint [issues] four new presidential coins each year". And they're going absolutely nowhere except "government vaults."

      I'm starting to think this is a strategy to salvage/prolong our faltering money supply: print/coin huge piles of cash, then stash it (either by creating something the public wants so much they hoard it, or creating something the public doesn't want so it sits in vaults, or just crea

    • Yes, obviously the best way to get dollar coins into circulation is to come out with a collectible series of them. Oh wait...
  • The wife like me to bring back coinage from when I go to work abroad. I'll have to see if I can get hold of some of these for the collection.

    Numismatists of the world, unite and take on those damned scriphophilists!

  • You can't easily slip a $1 coin into a stripper's g-string.
  • A lot of people initially resisted the change from paper bills to dollar coins (and later the same for the 2$ denomination), but how did the government make sure usage happened by the public? Simple. They did not give them a choice. Paper bills were retired and new ones were not issued, forcing people to adopt them. While it seems harsh in retrospect, it did make the switch a success. Because there was no other option!
  • Why did the mint insist on making dollar coins this UGLY?
  • New currency, bit shifted to the left. $10 becomes the new $1. Coinage would be still "penny, nickel, dime quarter" just have new issues.

    Nobody wants or cares about "pennies" (cent) anymore. nickels and dimes are almost there too. To fill up tires costs $.50 at most gas stations. It HURTS. But if it were ... $.05 why that wouldn't hurt as much. We could simply move a decimal point, issues some new currency over one month, and be done.

    And all the counterfeiters would have a brief field day, and all the drug

  • ...I can say that I truly HATE $1 and $2 coins. Having ten one-dollar bills in my wallet was never a problem. Having ten one-dollar coins in my pocket, (along with other assorted change), is a major PITA. Hold on to your paper singles, America! Folding money rules; one-dollar and two-dollar coins just suck!

  • Businesses resist the new dollar coins because they are still easily confused with quarters and the costs of accomodating the new coin is high. People who handle money all day do not stop and look at the coins every single time they make change. They go by feel and location. It will cost businesses money to adapt to new coins: They will have to change their cash drawers, coin counting and dispensing devices and eat the costs of mistaking dollar coins for quarters.

    The brilliant political decision to make the

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