The $1 bill must be phased out for Americans to accept a new money-saving $1 coin, Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, said Wednesday.
The government should also ensure the new coin is not confused with quarters and must educate the public about how much money the switch would save, Garn said.His remarks came at the beginning of a Senate Banking Committee hearing on proposals for a new $1 coin, which would commemorate Christopher Columbus. Garn is ranking Republican on that committee.
The U.S. General Accounting Office estimates the government could save $318 million annually by replacing the dollar bill with a coin. The life span of a coin is about 30 years, while bills last an average 17 months. A coin would cost 6 cents to make, and a bill costs 2.6 cents.
Garn said he remembers trying to warn that the old Susan B. Anthony dollar coin would fail "because it would be mistaken for a quarter, and simply would not be utilized. I offered several amendments, and all of them failed except one."
The only change Garn managed to make was to substitute a picture of an eagle on the reverse side "that looked like a sick chicken" for the "soaring eagle that appeared on the back of the Eisenhower dollar."
So, Garn said, "I had something to do with improving the Susan B. Anthony dollar, but it wasn't enough to make it a success."
This time, Garn said the government must take $1 bills out of circulation if the coin is to succeed.
He said Americans "are used to having dollar bills and simply do not want to change. My father thought the $5 gold piece should never have left either. So there's a big education job to be done."
Garn added, however, that the new coin should still be "as unique and different as possible so that there wouldn't be the mistakes repeated of the Susan B. Anthony" being confused with quarters.
Groups such as The Coin Coalition are proposing that a new $1 coin be gold colored, have the same dimensions as the Anthony dollar and have smooth edges - similar to the new Canadian dollar coin. It would also be made partially of copper - which could benefit Utah's copper industry.
But another of The Coin Coalition's suggestions could hurt the copper industry: eliminating the penny, and forcing cash transactions to be rounded to the nearest nickel. The coalition would also like to increase the use of $2 bills.
However, the Bush administration and the GAO say the coins will simply occupy space in government vaults unless Congress simultaneously moves to end the availability of dollar bills.
Donna V. Pope, director of the U.S. Mint, pointed to the Susan B. Anthony dollar, minted in 1979 and 1980, as an object lesson. About 425 million of the coins, half of the total struck, are still in U.S. Mint and Federal Reserve vaults.