Here's How Congress Might Reform Our Coins - Gainesville Coins News
No Minimum order! We accept Pay with Credit Card
Call Us: (813) 482-9300 Mon-Fri 9:00AM-6:00PM EST
Login or Register
Log into your account
About Gainesville Coins ®
Billions Of Dollars Bought And Sold A+ BBB Rating 10+ Years No Hidden Fees Or Commissions All Inventory Ships Directly From Our Vault

Here's How Congress Might Reform Our Coins

blog | Published On by
Here's How Congress Might Reform Our Coins

There is a problem that has been hanging over the American coinage system like a dark pall for about the past decade. With each passing year, the scale of the problem grows worse, but philosophical traditions and interest groups have made resolving the issue a challenge for Congress.

U.S. capitol dome Photo by DAVID ILIFF. [License: CC-BY-SA 3.0]

Now, two pieces of legislation aim to change our money in fundamental ways. Will our lawmakers finally take a step toward fixing our coins, or will the issue once again die at the hands of lobbyists?

An Important Philosophy

U.S. coinage has long been noted (and admired) for its consistency and stability of design. Make no mistake, this is a conscious decision: It mirrors the perceived stability of, and confidence in, the U.S. dollar abroad. More than any other single factor, trust in the dollar as a stable store of value (a debatable point) is the crux of the American economy's central place in the global economic system. For this reason, Treasury is not usually inclined to make any sweeping changes to our currency.

However, aside from aesthetics and a philosophy about projecting a stable currency, our coinage system is facing a persistent problem. Both the 1¢ penny and the 5¢ nickel have been losing money for the Treasury Department (and thus the taxpayers) for the better part of the last decade. There has also been difficulty in getting consumers to adopt $1 coins, which a more cost-effective and durable than paper (cotton, actually) $1 bills.

CoinWeek editor Hubert Walker provides some great comprehensive coverage on the two bills that seek to address these issues. The first is the COINS Act being considered by the Senate, introduced by Senator John McCain. The corollary in the House of the Representatives is H.R. 2067, the Cents and Sensibility Act. If nothing else, the legislature has a knack for crafting clever titles to the laws.

coins in jar A jar containing a mix of U.S. and foreign coins

So far in the process, both bills have been referred to committee for further debate and revision.

Resistance to the Bill

So if U.S. coin production is in obvious need of reform, why do people both inside and outside the numismatic community generally oppose this legislation?

The proposed legislation is not without its problems, of course. Some observers have pointed out that the bills make no provision for $2 coin production to complement the $1 coin, which has been done in Europe, Canada, and Australia. This would help ameliorate concerns about having to haul around a pocket full of heavy $1 coins to make everyday purchases.

The detractors have a few other strong points. The laws seem to favor switching the composition of the coins to steel, an idea that was used to replace the copper in pennies in 1943 during World War II. If this solution were so obvious and feasible, one wonders why it hasn't been the straightforward solution over the last 70 years or more.

Presidential $1 coins. ©US Mint Presidential $1 coins. ©US Mint

The legislation also prescribes that any changes should not burden the vending machine industry, or any others that rely on knowing the size, shape, and composition of coins. This would seem to be largely moot, however, since most vending machines already don't accept pennies. Broadly, there are public concerns that the bills are silent on too many indirect implications of these changes.

It's telling that nearly identical legislation has been introduced many times in previous sessions of Congress and failed long before reaching a vote each time. The general goal of coinage reform ought to be undertaken and supported, but until the lingering concerns about composition changes and an alternative $2 coin (or more $2 bills) are addressed, there's unlikely to be a sufficient political will to push these bills through Congress.


The opinions and forecasts herein are provided solely for informational purposes, and should not be construed as an offer, solicitation, or recommendation to buy or sell any product.

About the Author

Everett Millman

Everett Millman

Analyst, Commodities and Finance
Managing Editor

Everett has been the head content writer and market analyst at Gainesville Coins since 2013. He has a background in History and is deeply interested in how gold and silver have historically fit into the financial system.

In addition to blogging, Everett's work has been featured in CoinWeek, Advisor Perspectives, Wealth Management, Activist Post, and has been referenced by the Washington Post.

This site uses cookies for analytics and to deliver personalized content. By continuing to browse our site, you agree that you have read and understand our Privacy Policy.