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House panel hears proposals to save on currency costs

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By Gannett News Service
Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012, 6:50 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Americans should be carrying more change and fewer dollar bills, congressional lawmakers and currency experts said on Thursday.

Replacing the dollar bill with a $1 coin “would provide $4.4 billion in net benefits to the government over 30 years,” Lorelei St. James, director of physical infrastructure issues at the Government Accountability Office, told members of the House Financial Services subcommittee on domestic monetary policy and technology.

Subcommittee members said changing the metallic content of coins could save money.

Both ideas resemble changes implemented by Canada. In 1987, Canada replaced its $1 bill with a coin nicknamed the Loonie for Canada's national bird, the loon, which appears on the coin.

Canada changed the composition of its coins, beginning in 2000, to multi-ply steel.

Beverly Lepine, chief operating officer of the Royal Canadian Mint, said the changes have generated substantial savings.

“Lasting 25 years instead of one year for a bank note, the $1 circulation coin has saved the Canadian government $175 million over its first 20 years,” Lepine stated in written testimony.

Richard Peterson, deputy director of the U.S. Mint, said the Mint is conducting research on changing the composition of coins. A report is expected in December.

Some legislators and experts fear switching to a $1 coin could be inconvenient to some Americans.

“I think it will take a cultural change in this country,” said Rep. Lacy Clay, D-Mo. “Most men don't like to have a lot of change. We don't like to have our suits sag.”

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