With Congress still in debate over how to reduce the nation’s ballooning deficit, the U.S. Government Accountability Office is offering a suggestion it says could save the country $5.5 billion over 30 years: replacing the $1 bill with a coin.

The GAO’s reported showed that the U.S. could save an average of $184 million annually by replacing the $1 note with a coin—significantly less that the $522 million estimate the government agency reported back in 2000.

“We have previously recommended to the Congress replacement of the $1 note with a $1 coin and, in view of the ongoing significant estimated federal financial benefit, continue to support this prior recommendation,” the March 4 report stated.

The GAO arrived at these numbers by creating an economic model and interviewing officials from the Federal Reserve, the Treasury Department and the U.S. Secret Service as well as outside experts and officials from countries like Canada and the U.K.—two countries that have already replaced their lower denominator bills with coins.

In addition to both the U.K. and Canada, Australia, France, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Russia and Spain, are countries that have also replaced lower-denomination notes with coins, according to the GAO’s report, while most of these note-to-coin transitions occurred in the 1980s.

Public Opinion on a $1 Coin Mixed:

A survey conducted by the GAO suggested that Americans were mixed on the idea of the U.S. transition its $1 bill to coins. A 2002 survey conducted by the agency showed that 64% of Americans were opposed to the idea of eliminating the $1 note because they were inconvenient to carry and not readily available, amongst other reasons. However, when asked whether they would be interested in a new $1 coin when told of its cost benefits to the federal government, just 37% of the public were opposed to the change.

A newer poll carried out by Gallup in 2006 revealed much more opposition towards replacing the $1 bill—79% of the public opposed the change in that poll, while that percent only dropped to 64% when respondents were told the U.S. could save half a billion each year by making the switch.

Do you think that the federal government should replace the $1 bill with a coin? Let us know in the comments section.

Read: How to Detect Counterfeit U.S. Bills


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  • How about getting rid of pennies first?

    The only real trouble with replacing $1 bills with coins is the impact it would have on vending and casino machines. Think about all the soda machines at offices and campuses across the country… All the laundry machines… All the slot machines… Every time the Treasury changes the size, shape, weight or pattern of our money, these businesses are forced to upgrade (at significant cost for some).

    • I absolutely hate the penny. I am all about rounding to the 5 cent.

  • anonymous

    I don’t like the idea, but if it will save $ then I’m all for it

  • It was my understanding that we also lost money on the other coins. So what does this idea of yet another dollar coin mean? We’ll lose money on them than we do the printed dollars? And what would this new coin be made off?

    Not only that but it’s already been pointed out how this would affect businesses who would need to upgrade because of the change.

    I’m not knocking the idea I just find it odd.

    • When the Canadian government made the switch in 1987, people felt the same way, but change was a way to save money on printing since coins need fewer replacements than paper in circulation. Using the coin is believed to save around $250 million in costs over 20 years compared to using the green and white $1 bill, estimated the government.

      Your point around upgrading systems to handle the new coin is really strong and could be a key factor that definitely needs more discussion.

      Funny enough, the countries with coin currency are looking at taking these coins to a new level of security that will make them the most secure currency in the world. Now people are arguing this direction is a bad move as our society starts to go cashless (mobile / credit).

      • Alex, after I posted here the thought hit about going cashless. That really seems the best answer at reducing costs. Most of us already do go cashless for the most part. I could easily see a system built around a device/card/fob/smart phone system. Mobile Gas uses their speed pass technology in this manner. Some credit cards are employing the same tech with RFID technology. Not to mention the fact that I’ve seen smart phone apps that allow you to transfer money to a business for services.

        If they want to get serious about reducing costs I think that would be a great direction to go and actually start leading the world in.

    • Jim

      Lost money–while manufacturing money? While there’s no way out of this with regard to pennies and nickels, which cost more than their face values, I know an easy solution to recover the hundreds of millions of dollars represented by unused, unissued dollar coins: Send them out to banks in lieu of dollar bills.

      Problem solved.

  • Jim

    I’m absolutely in favor of a dollar coin, along with throwing out the system of coins we have now and revamping them. I’ve been posting to all of the stories on this that have come out this month. On the other hand, even I have to admit that the current series of Presidential Dollars are about the ugliest coins I’ve ever seen–not least the portraits themselves.

    Seriously though. Last I checked, the cheapest pack of gum (15 sticks) cost almost dollar, and chewing gum is just about the cheapest mass produced article of commerce in an industrial economy. Why do we have a paper note for such a small denomination, not to mention a penny that is worth a hundredth of that?