Should The US Convert Its Currency To Coins?

Published: Thursday, August 13, 2015 - 4:36pm
Updated: Friday, August 14, 2015 - 9:15am
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Now for a story that holds some currency. Actually, it’s about how we hold our currency. 

A new push is on, again, to get rid of the paper dollar and replace it with coinage. This month, Arizona U.S. Senator John McCain introduced the Unified Savings and Accountability Act, which includes this latest proposal to ditch the dollar bill in favor of the dollar coin. 

There are some staunch proponents of this plan.

Former Arizona Congressman Jim Kolbe has been fighting for the change to our change for more than two decades. 

Kolbe now works for a Washington D.C. think tank, as well as serving as co-chairman of the Dollar Coin Alliance, whose goal is to modernize U.S. currency. He said the idea still makes sense and could eventually save taxpayers billions.

“This saves money because it’s much easier to produce coins that last 30 years as opposed to currency bills that only last a few days," he said.

So would the Copper State benefit should the metal be used to make these coins? Kolbe says not anymore.

“Back in the 1980s, when the copper industry was flat on its back, that was part of it," he said. "But over the last 25 years I’ve not had any conversations with anyone in the industry. This is such peanuts as far as small amount use of copper that is really doesn’t have any impact.” 

But while the copper industry has no stake in this, many of the DCA’s members are in the business, including the Arizona Mining Association, Copper and Brass Fabricators Council, Copper Development Association and Global Brass and Copper. 

As for melting down those useless pennies into the dollars of the future? Kolbe said the time has also passed for that idea.

“The pennies don’t have any copper," he said. "You need to have it, because you can’t use them in vending machines. But it goes along with modernizing the currency.” 

For the record, since 1982 pennies from the U.S. Mint has been 97.5 percent zinc and only 2.5 percent copper. But before 1982 and for more than a hundred years before that, the penny was composed of 95 percent copper.

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