By: Tony Grant
The U.S. Mint only needs to continue producing three coin denominations for circulation: the nickel, quarter and dollar. Prices on retail and wholesale goods can still be marked to the penny. Merely round the aggregate total of the purchase to the nearest nickel. Consequently, the nickel and quarter sum to any amount of change for a dollar.
If you suspect merchants will devise nefarious formulas to get your extra 2 cents, you are probably correct. However, competition ultimately levels the playing field. No, they will not round up items on shelf stock to the nearest nickel. Remember, gasoline has been xxx.9 forever! For a gimmick, merchants can display a big green “¢” to signify they round down all purchases.
Rounding is already an accepted standard with several of our local merchants. The transactional viability of nickels, quarters and dollars is already established. The three coins are simple to distinguish by touch, weight or sight. Reaching into a pocket or purse to make exact change becomes easier through the attrition of pennies and dimes from the mix. To maximize the cost benefit, an alternate metal composition for the nickel is inevitable.
The Mint is enterprising. To capitalize on existing resources, the penny and dime can extend their reign through the annual collector sets. However, if the Mint really wanted to increase their bottom line (and please collectors?), they now have a lucrative opportunity. There are very talented designers and engravers at the Mint and plenty of artistic ideas. Put them together by creating annual commemorative reverses for the non-circulating coin denominations. The Sacagawea-Native American reverses are exemplary. A circulating bi-metal $2 coin would be nice, too.
The BEP could simultaneously consider a gradual phase-out of $1 bills. Reserve the reverse of the $1 denomination as a venue for limited run circulating commemorative bills. Dollar bills will disappear from circulation overnight! In addition, the BEP already has the channels to sell special sets directly to the public. There are many incredible images generated by the BEP engravers in the last 200 years, not to mention the potential for new designs. It is a shame to relegate this art and beauty to card stock. It is time to put those images on bills where they belong. It would be enjoyable to collect affordable, low denomination, modern series commemorative notes from circulation, if you could find any.
All of these proposed changes minimize political engagement, use existing resources, represent considerable cost saving and/or generate revenue. This is simply common sense with the potential for affordable collectibility. We need some new change.
This Viewpoint was written by Tony Grant, a hobbyist from East Quogue, N.Y. Viewpoint is a forum for the expression of opinion on a variety of numismatic subjects. To have your opinion considered for Viewpoint, write to David C. Harper, Editor, Numismatic News, 700 E. State St., Iola, WI 54990. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.