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Viewpoint: Get rid of cent, paper dollar for good

By William B. Tuttle

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I received (sort of) good news in my mailbox yesterday. It was the latest issue of Numismatic News (May 9). The U.S. government is finally waking up to the matter of over-cost cents and nickels. The paper dollar is due for circulation extinction as well. But of course this is all still up in the air with the House and Senate, as there are few supporters and/or co-sponsors for the legislation, “S.759: Currency Optimization, Innovation, and National Savings Act of 2017,” at this time.

The legislation calls for a halt in the production of the cent for at least 10 years, a change of composition (but not really) for the nickel that includes more copper and less nickel, and retirement for the paper dollar in circulation. In about three years – should this legislation become law – the GAO is required to make an assessment on whether to keep the cent or not. The GAO doesn’t have to wait; all it needs to do is look north to Canada.

Canada ceased total production of their cent in 2012 and has been getting along without pretty nicely since. None are made for collectors as well. There are still some Canadian cents around, as I find a few in change here in Cleveland every so often.

S.759 calls for a change in composition in the nickel. This is not a real change, as the 5-cent coin is still basically copper-nickel. The 80 percent copper and 20 percent nickel contents might make the coin appear more brassy than the 75/25 nickels we have now. The coin’s composition remains copper-nickel, it’s just a change in the percentage of the metals. This author predicts, with “a knock on wood,” that the coin counting machines will reject the new nickels when they’re produced, like they reject the Buffalo nickels.

Legislation is to require the Federal Reserve Board of Governors that there is an adequate supply of $1 coins to meet the demand for the denomination. Between the numbers of the Susan B. Anthony, Sacagawea, Presidential, and Native American Heritage dollars, not to mention the big “Ikes” that still might be in some vaults, there should very well be enough for starters. The government should pick one design and stay with that for 10 years and then change it. Please, not Susan B. Agony – I mean Anthony!

Suggesting that both the cent and paper dollar be produced just for collectors is not a good idea. Both the cent and paper dollar should have a termination date and be done with it. With the introduction of the Loonie in Canada, their dollar note was no longer produced. The Canadians had a six-month grace period in which the paper dollar was still legal tender along with the coin. After that, the paper could only be redeemed at banks and exchanged for the coin. In 2013, the Canadian mint sets had no cent coin. Keeping both the cent coin and paper dollar for collectors would just continue the confusion of what can circulate and what cannot. Just end it all, here and now.

As it stands, cents are getting tossed on the ground like so much litter because they are so common. Once their production is stopped, the numismatic value will start to rise. Likewise with the paper dollar. It might be cheaper to print a paper dollar than to mint a dollar coin in the short run, but the coin will outlast paper, and be cheaper (like $5 million/year) in the long run.

This “Viewpoint” was written by hobbyist William B. Tuttle, of Cleveland, Ohio.

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

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