Recently I heard a story on NPR about approximately one billions dollars of dollar coins that are in storage at the U.S. Mint. There have been several attempts to convert Americans from using dollar bills, which have a relatively short lifespan, to dollar coins, which can remain in circulation for decades. In 1979 the Susan B. Anthony coin (left) was produced. The Sacagawea coin (center) has been minted since 2000 and the presidential coins (right) were created in 2005.
The story was presented from the perspective of legislation gone wrong and how that has now resulted in an unnecessary cache of coins no one wants, but are still produced. However, I think it is more interesting to think about this from the perspective of human factors design. How can we get people to start using coins and stop using dollars?
When I visited Canada earlier in the month I discovered that the smallest denomination of paper money Canada uses is a five dollar bill. Images of the "tooney" ($2) and "looney" ($1) coins are below.
In my view, if the U.S. government truly wants Americans to stop using paper one dollar bills, it has to remove them from circulation. As long as we have the choice between paper and coins, I believe that paper will win - at least that's what I prefer!