This bill makes no cents

Some ideas in Congress don’t improve, no matter how many times they’re introduced. Now we’ve got the Currency Optimization, Innovation, and National Savings Act. The COINS Act, for short.

It’s another gambit to stop producing pennies. The ban would last 10 years. This bill goes further, though. It would cease the printing of dollar bills and revive dollar coins to replace them. It would also rejigger the metallic composition of nickels.

This, we are told, would save $16 billion over 10 years. Whatever.

As a fan of the penny, I don’t like it. I still stop and pick up pennies. My wife and I collect them in a gallon glass jug that takes years to fill.

These would be a thing of the past under the COINS Act.

Remember penny candy — when it was actually a penny?  As a kid, I’d bike over to the Dover Country Store with a drawstring bag full of pennies, or maybe a few nickels. I would come home with a lunch-sized bag of Mary Janes, Root Beer Barrels, Dum-Dums, Atomic Fireballs, Tootsie Roll Midgees, BB Bats and licorice wheels. Each piece cost a penny. For a nickel, I’d get a box of pink-tipped candy cigarettes or maybe Nik-L-Nips. With a dime, I’d splurge on a Charleston Chew.

Pennies have many practical uses, even if penny candy is no longer a penny. Pennies:

  • Make great electrical contacts while you run to the hardware store for a fuse in an old house.
  • Provide endless amusement by placing them on railroad tracks and waiting for a train to flatten them. They’re hot right after.
  • Substitute as a ruler because of their precise 0.75-inch diameter.
  • Give a good bead on tire tread depth. Can you see above Lincoln’s head? Time to replace.
  • Double as a screwdriver in a pinch.

Plus, a shiny penny still has the power to delight a toddler.

As for “silver” dollars, I don’t know anyone who would prefer a pocket full of jangling coins to a nice flat pack of singles in the wallet.

The dollar coin has come and gone several times over the last century-and-a-half. For some reason, they don’t catch on as everyday currency. They’ve traditionally been way bigger than other coins. To make them too small would cause confusion with quarters. What evidence do the COINS Act sponsors have that people will accept them now?

Two-dollar bills never caught on either. Treasury reissued them briefly during the Clinton administration. I carry around a folded one in my wallet for good luck.

Here’s an idea: Maybe the time has come for a $3 bill.